ARC REVIEW: Stillhouse Lake – by Rachel Caine @rachelcaine @ThomasMercerUK

Title: Stillhouse Lake
(Stillhouse Lake #1)
Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2017
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 18th 2017
Pages: 302

“There are no limits for the hate. It’s free-floating, a toxic cloud of moral outrage and mob mentality, and it doesn’t care who it hurts. Only that it does.”

*** 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 heard a lot of excellent things about Stillhouse Lake so far, so you can imagine my happy dance when I saw the message in my inbox that my Netgalley wish was granted. It took me less than a week to pick up my copy and I still kind of wish I would have done so earlier. Because wow. Just WOW. It’s been over a day since I finished reading Stillhouse Lake and I am still lost for words. I should probably have taken more time to cool off before writing my review, because this thriller has been one hell of a ride…But let’s see if I can say something somewhat coherent about it. First of all Stillhouse Lake is hands down one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year and just so damn intense! Make sure to clear your schedule before starting this one, because you will want to sit down and read it in one go. The story had me hooked from page one and didn’t let me go until the very end… Why? Here are some bulletpoints to give you an idea. Highly creepy serial killer: CHECK. Intriguing plot and plot twists:CHECK. Constant suspense and feeling something is off: CHECK. Brilliant writing style that keeps you on the edge of your seat: CHECK. Inability to trust any character: CHECK. Being sure you figured it all out and finding out you’re wrong over and over again: CHECK. Very realistic character development: CHECK. Do I have to go on? Dark, twisted, messed up and oh so good…As you can imagine, I can highly recommend Stillhouse Lake. Where can I sign up for the sequel?!

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The life of Gina Royal seemed to be nothing but average: a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two children. But that is until a car crashes into their garage and her husband’s secret life as a serial killer is revealed. People can’t believe she never knew about it and blame her just as much as her husband… After one too many death threat, stalkers and internet trolls, Gina is forced to run and create a new identity to keep both her and her kids safe. Her ex is now in prison, but that doesn’t mean danger isn’t out there… Not only has her husband connections and seems to find her wherever she hides, but there are many others who wish her harm. Gina, now called Gwen, thinks she is finally safe in their new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. But just as the three are starting to feel at ease in their new identities, a body turns up in the lake…

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Like I said before, Stillhouse Lake is hands down one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year. This story is dark, disturbing and intense right from the very first page and will have you hooked until you reach the end. I love my serial killer thrillers and this focus on the relatives and the consequences of being linked to a serial killer is such an original perspective! I loved every single moment of this disturbing ride and I can highly recommend it to fans of the genre. SO good!


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ARC REVIEW: The Serial Killer’s Daughter – by Lesley Welsh @bookouture

Title: The Serial Killer’s Daughter
Author: Lesley Welsh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 29th 2017
Pages: 335

“She remembered her mother telling her that discerning the truth in Don’s lies was like unravelling knotted string.”

*** 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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Call me weird, but mention a serial killer and I instantly want to read your thriller. So mention one in the title and I’m sold as soon as I first hear about it… And that is exactly what happened when I saw The Serial Killer’s Daughter mentioned. One of my absolute all time favorites (hint: Jasper Dent) features the son of a serial killer, so having another story focus on the child of a ‘monster’ had me hooked instantly. Now I’ve read The Serial Killer’s Daughter, I do have to say that it’s the first time that the title is actually a spoiler for me. Why? As much as it was what first peaked my interest, I would have liked not knowing the dad was a serial killer beforehand and it takes away some of the suspense around Don’s character. The character development in this psychological thriller is sublime though and this is without doubt one of the most twisted serial killers I’ve encountered with. I liked that it’s not just about the killer and both the daughter and other characters play an important role in the story. There are some very dark and gruesome details in certain parts of the story, so beware if you are sensitive to those. They fit remarkably well in the story though and it only adds to the description and characterization of an extremely violent, arrogant sociopath and manipulator. The pace is a tad slow and there is less action that I would have expected, but the focus in The Serial Killer’s Daughter is on the characters instead and the plot is without doubt very twisty.

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Suzanne has never been close to her father Don and hasn’t been in contact for years… But still her life changes forever the day she receives a visit from Rose Anderson, the woman who has been living with him. She tells Suzanne that her father died she wants Suzanne to have his possessions; including a series of notebooks and a mysterious collection of photographs of various women. One of the women is actually her friend Sophie, who died ten years ago in a mysterious fire, and she wonders why her father would have a photo of her. Suzanne’s mother warns her to stay away, but Suzanne cannot let the past rest and decided to read the journals to find out more about her father’s life. But she might end up finding a lot more than she had signed up for…

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Although the title The Serial Killer’s Daughter is actually sort of a spoiler of what is to come, there is no doubt that this story is a well written character-driven psychological thriller with a sublime character development. The pace is a bit slow and there might not be as much action as you would suspect there to be in a serial killer thriller, but the story is full of twists and the characters more than make up for it. You will be able to meet one for the most twisted and creepy serial killers I’ve encountered with to this date and get to know him (almost too) intimately; definitely the stuff nightmares are made from.


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BOOK REVIEW: Heartsick – by Chelsea Cain

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Title: Heartsick
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #1)
Author: Chelsea Cain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: 2007
Finished reading: May 29th 2016 
Pages: 421
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“Even the most blatant assholes seemed to function in a state of grace when confronted with the brutal loss of a loved one. ”

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I have been having a lot of back luck with my mystery/thriller reads lately, but I decided to give Heartsick by Chelsea Cain a go anyway since various people have recommended this series to me in the past. And now I’ve read it I totally agree with them; this is definitely one of my favorite newly discovered whodunit reads! I will definitely be continuing this series soon, because this first book of the Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell series was fast-paced, entertaining and had just the right amount of plot twists and gruesome details. It is true that some of the scenes might not be for those with a weak stomach, but the descriptions are really well done and add to the character development and general plot. My only small point of criticism would be that the main character Archie is quite the stereotype for the typical detective story: he has a really messed up personal life and that seems to be the norm for just about every succesful detective in these kind of series. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing and it works rather well in this book, but it is not exactly original either. Still, the rest of the story is definitely good enough to make up for it. Recommended!

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Archie Sheridan had been hunting down the beautiful serial killer Gretchen Lowell for a long time before she decided to capture him as her latest victim. Somehow Archie survived the ten days of horrifying physical and mental torture, and what is even more remarkable is that Gretchen actually ended up saving his life and handing herself in. And even two years after the fact, nobody understands why she did what she did. Archie has been so traumatized by the events that he has been on medical leave ever since and no longer lives with his wife, but with a new killer on the loose he is asked to return to his job. He is not sure he is fit to return, but he seems to be the only person qualified to understand the mind of this new psychopath. Will Archie be able to finally confront his demons of the past and catch this killer before any more teenage girls are being kidnapped and killed?

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Heartsick turned out to be one of the best whodunit reads I’ve read in a while. I will definitely be reading more of this series! While Archie might be a bit of a stereotype and not exactly original, there is no doubt that Gretchen is one of the creepiest and most messed up serial killers I’ve read about in a long time. Actually, some of the scenes might be a bit gruesome if you have a weak stomach… But they do add something to the story. If you are looking for a good whodunit, definitely consider reading this series.

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl In The Ice – by Robert Bryndza

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Title: The Girl In The Ice
(DCI Erika Foster #1)
Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 12th 2016
Finished reading: April 20th 2016
Pages: 396
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“The secret of blending in, is don’t try to. Everyone is so fucking self-obsessed.”

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I have been wanting to read The Girl In The Ice ever since I first heard about it and found out it was a mystery/thriller read… The cover is slighly misleading (when I first saw it I thought it would be a fantasy read until I investigated further), but the excellent plot more than makes up this initial confusion. In fact, I think the plot, plot twists and descriptions are probably the best aspect of this first book in the DCI Erika Foster series. The detailed descriptions set the right atmosphere right from the first page and the fast pace and intriguing murder case made it hard to stop reading this story. I admit some of the plot twists might be a bit farfetched, but the story is interesting enough that it doesn’t really matter. What did bother me and lowered the rating quite a bit is the ‘bitchiness’ of the characters and the slight lack of character development or other elements that maybe would have made me like the characters better. I understand Robert Bryndza was trying to create a strong female character with Erika Foster and I’m not saying she comes over as a bad detective, but why do all successful (female) detectives have to have a complicated personal life? And what is with all the bitchiness between the main characters? The fact that the characters were not likeable made it harder to connect to the story, although I have to say it is the only serious problem I had with The Girl In The Ice. So if you are looking for a good whodunit with a well written plot, a surprising ending and don’t mind unlikeable characters, make sure to add this book to your wishlist.

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When the body of a woman is discovered beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to investigate the murder. The case is delicate since the victim turns out to be the daughter of a very influential family and Erika Foster is told she cannot ask any painful questions or do anything that might damage their reputation. Erika doesn’t trust the family though and decides to dig deeper anyway… And she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes whose deaths look suspiciously similar. Her boss is furious that she doesn’t leave the family alone and wants to release information that can damage both their reputation and that of the victim… Erika feels she is close to discovering information that will help her to solve the case, but after her last investigation went terribly wrong her career is hanging by a thread and she doesn’t find the support she needs to continue. Will she be able to find a way to fight her own personal demons as well as to hunt the new killer before he kills again?

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Like I said above, I would have given The Girl In The Ice an even higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the ‘bitchy’ characters. I don’t mind strong characters or a bit of swearing if it’s used in the right way, but the constant bitching between the main characters became quite annoying after a while. The plot and plot twists are more than excellent though and I have to say I didn’t see the ending coming at all. Combine this with detailed descriptions that set the right atmosphere and a fast pace and you have a really entertaining whodunit that is definitely worth reading if you like the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Game – by Barry Lyga

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Title: Game
(Jasper Dent #2)
Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
First published: April 16th 2013
Finished reading: July 19th 2015
Pages: 520
Rating 5

“Well, of course it was Billy screwing with his mind. That’s what Billy did. Dear Old Dad had a PhD in mind screwing. The question was, was it just Billy screwing with his mind?”

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How do I even start describing my love for this series?! I almost feel I need to invent a 6 star rating just to express how much I have been enjoying the first two books of the Jasper Dent series. The mystery/thriller/horror genre is one of my favorites and Barry Lyga has moved straight to the list of my favorite authors of that genre. Game is, like I Hunt Killers, simply a masterpiece; disturbing, scary, brilliantly written and it keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. And that ending! I normally don’t like cliffhangers, but in this case the author is forgiven. What a plot twist and a way to end this sequel! The pace is fast and Barry Lyga does a more than excellent job of describing the main character Jazz and his inner conflicts. Growing up with his Dear Old Dad being an infamous serial killer definitely left its mark… But I love how determined he is to fight his destiny and hunt down both his dad and the newest serial killer in town. If you haven’t read this series yet and enjoy the genre: this one is a definite must-read!

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WARNING: do not read this summary if you haven’t read I Hunt Killers yet! It will most likely contain spoilers, even though I’ve made sure to keep it short.

Jazz thought he was finally free of his serial killer dad Billy back when he was sent to prison four years ago… But Dear Old Dad managed to escape and is haunting his boy yet again. Jazz is desperate to prove he will not follow in his father’s footsteps. When a NY detective asks for his help in the Hat-Dog Killer case, he decides it’s time to do as his new tattoo says and ‘hunt killers’. Not everybody agrees to his presence in New York and it looks like the Hat-Dog Killer wants to play with both him and his girlfriend Connie. And what has his father to do with all of this? Jazz doesn’t think his father can resist his urge to kill for to long…

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I know it looks a lot like I am fangirling all over the place, but this series is just SO good. Game was just as brilliant as the first book, I Hunt Killers, and definitely left me wanting for more. The prose, the setting, the characters, the suspense… Everything  justworks perfectly together. If you add that up with a dose of creepy and even a little humor, you have the ingredients for the perfect YA thriller/horror read. Seriously addicting and without doubt worth reading!

BOOK REVIEW: I Hunt Killers – by Barry Lyga

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Title: I Hunt Killers
(Jasper Dent #1)
Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
First published: April 3rd 2012
Finished reading: July 6th 2015
Pages: 359
Rating 5

“You won’t even know you’ve crossed the line until it’s way back in your rearview mirror.”

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I was in the mood for a good thriller/mystery read the other week and decided to pick up my copy of I Hunt Killers. I ended up getting exactly what I wished for and more! This read is creepy, disturbing… But SO good! The main character Jasper ‘Jazz’ Dent is the son of a serial killer that has over one hundred victims on his name. His father has been caught four years ago, but Jasper is afraid he might end up following in his father’s footsteps since he didn’t exactly have a normal childhood. Jazz is such an interesting character and I really like his best friend Howie and his girlfriend Connie as well. This first book of the Jasper Dent series shows the internal struggle Jazz has to face and his determination to not turn into a murderer like his father wants and most others expect. Barry Lyga was able to mix horror elements with humor and great prose. The only downside is that I Hunt Killers ends with a mayor cliffhanger… Which leaves me no other choice than reading the sequel ASAP. Recommended!

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Jasper ‘Jazz’ Dent looks like a normal and very charming teenager, but he has an infamous past. His father is one of the biggest serial killers around and until Jazz was thirteen and Dear Old Billy got caught, his father trained him to follow in his footsteps. It’s been four years since his dad was sent to prison, and Jazz is desperately to try and live a normal life. It’s hard to ignore his urges and his father’s lessons, but he really doesn’t want to be a killer… But the truth is, he DOES know a lot about serial killers and their ammo. So when another body turns up dead in his small town, Jazz is sure there is another serial killer on the loose. The police first don’t want to believe him, but soon find out they will need Jazz’ help…

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This thriller/horror read is both terrifying and funny at the same time. The prose and fast pace make it easy to read and it didn’t take me long to finish I Hunt Killers. The final chapters were so exciting that I was sitting on the edge of my seat and couldn’t stop reading! A delightfully messed up and disturbing read and definitely recommended to those who love to read a good thriller/horror story.

BOOK REVIEW: Tucker Peak – by Archer Mayor

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Title: Tucker Peak
(Joe Gunther Series #12)
Author: Archer Mayor
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2001
Finished reading: January ? 2015
Pages: 352
Rating 3

“Cat’s out of the bag. You nail this bastard or I’ll make you sorry you didn’t.”

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Tucker Peak is one of those crime paperbacks that you buy cheap and later forget all about… The consequence that this one has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. I haven’t read the first eleven books in the series and to be honest I don’t think I will. This novel by Archer Mayor is not bad, but it doesn’t manage to stand out from the many crime/detective/police novels out there. The pace is a bit slow for my liking and I couldn’t really connect to the characters. Part of the problem with the characters could be because of the fact that I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I personally don’t think so. The different crimes mostly happening in the small ski town in Vermont reach the limit of credibility as well as the undercover investigation itself. I mean, they had an awful lot of luck discovering what they did… But I guess that applies to a lot of detective series. In short, it is an ok read with quite some action involved even though it reads slow. But in the end it does the job.

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Joe Gunther is now member of the newly-formed Vermont Bureau Of Investigation, and is called to assist in the investigation of a series of burglaries in Tucker Peak. It is a small ski town in Vermont that has been having problems competing with better ski resorts out there, and they can’t afford any more trouble. The management is trying to improve the facilities to survive, but the local environmental group is against those plans and tries to sabbotage their work. If the news about the burglaries leaks out, tourists might stop coming at all… Joe and his collegue Sammie decide to go undercover to find the thief, and soon find out there is a lot more going on than a simple case of condo burglaries. Drug-dealing, sabotage, murder… The VBI agents soon have their hands full.

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Like I said, there is nothing that makes Tucker Peak stand out from other crime novels. I’ve heard this is not the best one out of the bunch of Joe Gunther novels (25!) out there, but I don’t think I will be trying out the other titles any time soon… Unless I get my hands on another cheap copy and I’m in the mood for a dose of crime. The setting in Vermont is interesting though and the prose ok, although a bit slow. I guess it will work fine as a vacation read.