ARC REVIEW: Deadly Betrayal – by OMJ Ryan

Title: Deadly Betrayal
(Detective Jane Phillips #4)
Author: OMJ Ryan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: November 22nd 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: November 15th 2020
Pages: ?

“Now she wondered if she had been spared each of those times because her fate was to die in the place where she had been born: Hong Kong.”

*** 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’ve been following this series ever since the first book came out last year, and Deadly Betrayal is already Detective Jane Phillips book number four… And without doubt another action-packed and entertaining ride! Technically you might be able to read this one as a stand-alone, but I don’t recommend it as you will be missing out on character background that might make it harder to understand the dynamics between the different characters. The case itself stands on its own though, and Jane Phillips and her team without doubt have another intriguing case on their hands.

The first thing that stands out in Deadly Betrayal is that this time around we don’t just stay in Manchester and its surroundings. Oh no, we get to travel all the way to Hong Kong for a few chapters as well! I really liked how this aspect of the investigation was incorporated into the plot and the descriptions and personal connection to Jane Phillips really made that setting come alive for me. And such shocking scenes too! The whole possible Triad connection in general managed to raise this story to the next level for me, and really gave the story an original touch.

These books always read superfast and Deadly Betrayal is no exception. This is one of those detective series where it’s best to clear your schedule, as you won’t even notice hours have passed until you reach that final page and stare at the clock. You won’t find a boring minute in Deadly Betrayal as it is packed with suspense, danger as well as your typical murder investigation. I had a brilliant time following Jane and her team as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on… And there is no doubt that this story ends with a bang too.

As for the characters… I’m still a fan of both Jane and her team. They are easy to like and their banter is a nice contrast with some of the heavier and action-packed moments of the story. Fox is still enormously frustrating though, and the story ends with a hint a different irritating character is going to be coming back in the next book… Overall, the plot and writing made up for those minor frustations though.

In short, if you enjoy the detective thriller genre and like your stories fast, suspenseful and action-packed, this series will always provide you with an entertaining ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Breathe Your Last – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: Breathe Your Last
(Detective Josie Quinn #10)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: December 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: November 6th 2020
Pages: 350

“If they knew what I’d done, I’d probably go to prison. If I went to prison, I wouldn’t be able to play my little game. Where would be the fun in that?”

*** 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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We all have our series we cannot wait to get back to, those characters and settings that feel like old friends every time you have the pleasure to return to when you pick up a new installment. The Detective Josie Quinn series is exactly that for me. I’ve been a fan of this detective series ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and I’ve devoured every single sequel since then. This series is known for its lightning fast and action-packed plots, and I can definitely recommend clearing your schedule as it will be really hard to stop reading once you’ve read the first chapters. These books are highly addictive and simply exhilarating!

While technically you could read Breathe Your Last as a stand-alone, I would suggest reading the books in order as you will be missing out on significant character background otherwise. And trust me, you will be missing out on hours and hours of detective thriller entertainment in the first place! Breathe Your Last has once again a very interesting plot as well as developments on a personal level for Josie Quinn. It might not be all too credible to have that many criminals and serial killers running around in the small town of Denton, but I’m not complaining as it means more Josie Quinn adventures to enjoy! Things can be said about the credibility in general, but I personally don’t mind as I’m always too busy turning those pages and having fun.

We get to see the story unfold both through the eyes of Josie and the killer. The chapters with the killer’s POV were particularly interesting, as I always appreciate an opportunity to get a glimpse inside the head of a serial killer. The plot was another interesting one, and you will find yourself on the edge of your seat as the case starts to develop. It definitely won’t be easy to guess the identity of the killer early either! You will also find a healthy dose of action and suspense, and I confess at one point towards the ending my heart nearly stopped and I suddenly wanted to throw my kindle at the wall… Trust me, you will know exactly what I’m talking about as soon as you reach that point in the story. I really liked how everything was wrapped up though, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. What a read!

If you enjoy a well written, fast and action-packed detective thriller series that just keeps delivering, you should definitely find the time to schedule a meeting with Josie Quinn. This is without doubt one of my favorite detective series, and Breathe Your Last is another winner!


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: Furia – by Yamile Saied Méndez

Title: Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: September 15th 2020
Publisher: Workman Audio
Finished reading: October 30th 2020
Pages: 368

Duration audiobook 8 Hours, 51 Minutes, 38 Seconds
Narrated by Sol Madariaga

“I’d leave this house the first chance I got, but not by chasing after a boy, including my brother. I’d do it on my own terms, following my dreams, not someone else’s.”

*** A copy of this audiobook was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Workman Audio in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess that I have a weak spot for any story with a Latin American setting, and any story set in Argentina will instantly have a special place in my heart. As an immigrant who has had the opportunity to live in Argentina during (most of) the last decade, I love seeing the Argentinian culture and customs portrayed in my stories. As soon as I read the blurb of Furia, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. The setting in Rosario (a city I’ve had the chance to visit a couple of times over the years) as well as the prejudice the main character has to face as a female soccer player had me fully intrigued… And it most definitely turned out to be a powerful listen.

I know that I’m still a newby when it comes to the whole audiobook experience, and I also confess that I still prefer reading the stories myself, but there is just something about listening to a book set in Argentina that is narrated by someone with an Argentinian accent. While I do understand that some might be put off by this as non-Spanish speakers might be having a more difficult time understanding the many Spanish phrases thrown in, I personally felt it gave the story a real sense of authenticity. Sol Madariaga‘s voice grew on me almost immediately and I applaude her fluidity switching between English and (Argentinian) Spanish flawlessly. The pace and flow of the audiobook were just right for me, and I had no problems at all keeping up with the story. And I think that this audiobook might just only have enhanced my experience with this story for me.

Like I mentioned before, Furia is set in Argentina and it shows. Not only do we have many thorough descriptions of Rosario and Argentinian customs in general, but this story also deals with social issues including domestic abuse and violence. The all-popular soccer is another very important element of course, and the power of this sport can be felt throughout the story. It doesn’t stop there though, as Furia is made even more authentic through the use of many many (Argentinian) Spanish words and phrases that are woven expertly into the plot and dialogue. While I do understand that non-Spanish speakers might seem them as a burden, I personally loved how it gave the story that true Argentinian flavor.

I personally more of a rugby fan, but I have seen with my own eyes just how important soccer is in Argentina and I really liked how the sport was incorporated into the plot. Furia is about soccer as well as the struggles of the main character as a female soccer player, and the writing really made the sport and its players come alive for me. As for the characters… Camila was quite easy to warm up to, although I did end up having mixed thoughts about her. Why? I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the constant lying and ‘hot and cold’ treatment of Diego did get on my nerves… And I particularly found the whole keeping her soccer playing a secret for over a year unbelievable. Again, why? Well, let’s just say that people love to talk and gossip down here, and the soccer passion is in the blood of most… So I just don’t believe nobody ever mentioned something to her parents before, especially with her brother being a well known player too.

That said, I did enjoy most of this story and it felt like a true ode to Argentinian soccer and culture. Lighter moments and romance are mixed with heavier topics, and all in all Furia turned out to be a satisfying story to listen to. I can definitely recommend the audio version, but I would advice non-Spanish speakers to approach with caution as you might struggle understanding the Spanish words and phrases in the audio even though they do make the story feel more authentic.


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ARC REVIEW: Harrow Lake – by Kat Ellis

Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 2nd 2020
Pages: 320

“But when you’re alone in the dark, impossible things grow bones and flesh.”

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

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I’ve been curious about Harrow Lake ever since I first read the blurb. The horror movie element, the small town where strange things happen… It sounded like the perfect premise for a creepy read, and also a perfect story to read close to Halloween. And while I did end up having mixed thoughts, I can’t deny that Harrow Lake nailed that creepy and eerie vibe.

There is no doubt that the star of the show is the town, Harrow Lake, itself. Between the many descriptions, background as well as what is happening in the present, this town gives us the perfect backdrop for the story. Creepy, eerie and with a hint of the supernatural… It gives us that perfect ominous feel and a hint of foreboding; you just feel in your bones things are going to get out of hand fast. The history behind Harrow Lake was intriguing, and I loved how seamlessly the story switched between the supernatural and the ‘real’ world. I could also really appreciate the important role the horror movie Nightjar played throughout the story. As Lola revisits the many places that were part of the movie her father filmed there, you will learn more about the town itself as well as her missing mother… The upcoming movie festival also adds that little something extra to the plot.

That said, I can’t say that I was charmed by the main characters at all. Especially Lola started to get really annoying, and I swear that if she says ‘Optimal‘ one more time I’m going to smack her in the head. I found her personality itself to be rather bland too… And I didn’t really get a proper feel off the rest of the characters either. Like I said before, the town itself is the true star of the show and I almost felt like it had more personality than the characters itself… I can’t say that I was a fan of the ending either, and I saw some of the twists coming quite early on. The writing did make it quite easy to keep reading though.

All in all it wasn’t a bad read and I most definitely loved the horror movie element as well as that eerie Harrow Lake setting, but there were also elements that didn’t work that well for me. If you like creepy reads with a hint of the supernatural and a thoroughly developed eerie small town setting, Harrow Lake might just be for you.


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Thing To Burn – by Will Dean

Title: The Last Thing To Burn
Author: Will Dean
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 21st 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton / Atria Books
Finished reading: November 4th 2020
Pages: 256

“There is no handcuff keeping me here, there is no manacle locked around my ankle. And yet I am imprisoned.”

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

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I really enjoyed Will Dean‘s writing in his Tuva Moodyson series, so I knew I wanted to read this stand-alone as soon as I first heard about it. I mean, have you seen that blurb?! A man keeping an illegal woman trapped in his home, pretending to be his wife… That most definitely sounds like a rock solid premise to build your story around. I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy my time with The Last Thing To Burn, and my instincts turned out to be absolutely right. You will want to clear your schedule for this one, as it will be REALLY hard to stop reading before you reach that final page. Unputdownable indeed!

Like I said, the premise itself is rock solid. While you can argue that nothing much is going on, as it is basically the two main characters inside the same house in the middle of nowhere during most of the story… But its power is in its simplicity. With other distractions stripped away, the sole spotlight is on that house and what happens inside. This gives the story an even bigger impact, and the descriptions of the tired house and its surroundings most definitely set the right tone for the story. An air of desperation, loneliness and a hint of foreboding… You will know things will escalate, and the future seems bleak, but you won’t be able to stop reading to see if things will improve against all odds.

The Last Thing To Burn is a character-driven story, and the focus is mainly on Thanh (Jane) and her ‘husband’. We see the events unfold through Thanh’s eyes as we learn a little about the past, but mainly about what happens in the present. It’s a truly terrifying and inhumane situation she finds herself in, something so hopeless that it is hard to imagine how she could ever find a way out of it all… Plot developments and twists will arrive along the way, both showing her strength and moral dilemma as she considers the consequences of her actions if he finds out. The last part of The Last Thing To Burn definitely amps up the suspense and action, and I was literally biting my nails as I kept turning those pages. The ending was more than satisfying!

All in all The Last Thing To Burn is a brilliantly written, atmospheric and suspenseful character-driven thriller and a title to watch out for in 2021. Enjoy thrillers and wonder what to put on your wishlist for next year? You have found your next addition.


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ARC REVIEW: Across The Green Grass Fields – by Seanan McGuire

Title: Across The Green Grass Fields
(Wayward Children #6)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 12th 2021
Publisher: Tor.com
Finished reading: October 2nd 2020
Pages: 208

“Anything with enough brain to know itself as an individual will reach out to others, looking for other eyes with which to see the world.”

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

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I’ve been a fan of the Wayward Children series ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and each new installment has been a most-anticipated release without fail. I simply couldn’t resist reading Across The Green Grass Fields almost as soon as my request was approved… I was THAT excited to have this title hanging out on my kindle months early. I most definitely didn’t expect to have mixed feelings about this newest installment though… But it is what it is I guess.

Across The Green Grass Fields is already book number six of the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone perfectly as it only contains new characters. The whole magic behind the ‘door to a different world’ is quite easy to understand without the background knowledge of the previous books, so you wouldn’t have any difficulties understanding the idea behind this story. That said, I did prefer the previous books over this one, so maybe reading them in order is worth it anyway? Across The Green Grass Fields is by no means a bad read, but I just felt that spark of the previous installments was missing here.

I do have to say that I loved having an intersex main character; something I haven’t come across often during my years reading. Regan makes for an interesting character and I liked seeing the contrast between her situation in the ‘real’ world and the Hooflands. That said, I felt that the first part set in the real world dragged on for too long, and the pace was considerably slow there. Especially considering that this is a short story in the first place, and I would have loved to have more focus on the fantasy world. I understand that it was important to give Regan a background without just throwing in the intersex element and be done with it, but it took me a long time to properly warm up to the story with the way this first part was narrated.

I enjoyed the idea behind the Hooflands, with the centaurs, unicorns, kelpies and other creatures. As always, the worldbuilding of the fantasy world the main characters find themselves in is my favorite part of the story, and I would have loved to see even more background. It was interesting to see how the centaurs lived and took Regan in as one of their own, but again it felt a bit slow going and the final part considerably abrupt and quite an anti-climax. Was I surprised by the final twist? Yes. But I can’t say that the ending was exactly all that satisfying.

As a whole, Across The Green Grass Fields was sadly my least favorite Wayward Children story by far to this date… Between the slow parts, abrupt ending and too much focus on the ‘real’ world, the elements I did enjoy (including the worldbuilding of the Hooflands and Regan’s character) just didn’t make up for it. This might just have been me though, as most people did seem to love this story so far.


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ARC REVIEW: Shadow Sands – by Robert Bryndza @amazonpub

Title: Shadow Sands
(Kate Marshall #2)

Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 3rd 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: October 21st 2020
Pages: 310

“There was something very lonely about being around people who didn’t have to hide their emotions.”

*** 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’ve been a fan of Robert Bryndza‘s thrillers ever since I read the first Erika Foster book back in 2016, and his newest Kate Marshall series is quickly turning into a favorite too. I loved my time with the first book Nine Elms last year, and I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel for a long time… And now I’ve had the chance to read Shadow Sands, I’m happy to say that it turned out to be everything I hoped for and more. His books are just so damn readable! Highly addictive, fast-paced, dark and suspenseful… Shadow Sands will take you on another exhilarating ride.

I’ve learned in the past to clear my schedule before starting one of Robert Bryndza‘s books, because I’m never able to stop once I start reading the first page. Shadow Sands was no exception to that rule! As soon as I started reading, I found myself racing through those pages, unable to pace myself as I wanted more and more and more. Unputdownable definitely applies here! There is just something about his writing that is highly addictive; combine that with one of my favorite genres (crime thriller) and a solid plot and you have the perfect recipe for a successful story.

Talking about the plot: Shadow Sands has another winner. With the main character Kate Marshall being a lecturer and impromptu private investigator rather than a detective, this series gives us a fresh perspective. I do love my detective thrillers, but both Kate and Tristan take this story to the next level by investigating without the resources a police investigation has. Shadow Sands starts with a bang when Kate discovers a body while diving with her son, and the pace never slows down as she soon realizes something dodgy is going on. We have the mystery around the body she found, the disappearance of one of their colleagues as well as personal developments of multiple characters… And even Peter pops up again.

Shadow Sands uses a multiple POV structure, where we not only get to follow main character Kate, but also other important characters such as Tristan, Magdalena and even the killer… This structure is used to add suspense, hide certain plot twists and secrets as well as slowly reveal the truth about it all. The twists are well done and I didn’t guess the killer until just before the reveal, and I’m always happy when a story actually manages to mislead me. Shadow Sands isn’t afraid to go dark and twisted, so definitely brace yourself for some properly disturbing scenes… There is plenty of suspense and action too, and this story will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

If you like your crime thrillers fast, action-packed, dark and suspenseful, Shadow Sands is a great pick! You can technically read it as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on a significant amount of character background so I wouldn’t advice it. Plus, both books are absolutely worth reading in the first place! I’m already looking forward to the next one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Resort – by Susi Holliday

Title: The Last Resort
Author: Susi Holliday
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction
First published: December 1st 2020
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Finished reading: October 28th 2020
Pages: 300

“It’s easy to paint a picture of happiness on your social media channels, when in reality you’re dying inside.”

*** 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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I’ve been meaning to try one of Susi Holliday‘s books for ages now, so I jumped at the chance to read her newest story The Last Resort early. I always love a good locked-room mystery, so I fully thought I was going to find a new favorite with this story after reading the blurb. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ment to be… And sadly the actual story didn’t live up to the blurb at all for me. I’ll try to explain briefly why below; it’s hard to talk about this story without giving away any spoilers and I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who find this story to be a better fit.

Like I said before, I still love the idea behind The Last Resort. I’m a sucker for a good locked-room mystery and this element is definitely present with the seven main characters being ‘trapped’ on a mysterious island. I don’t think the element itself reached its full potential though… Part of this probably had to do with the characters, which sadly were considerably unlikeable. I can live with unlikeable if they are at least interesting and well rounded, but most felt like stereotypes and there were a lot of cliches involved. I wasn’t able to connect to them at all, so I honestly didn’t care less about what happened to them… So the whole suspense around them possibly being in danger was lost to me.

As for the science fiction element… I love a good futuristic technology element when done right (I’m looking at you, John Marrs), but in this case I felt this element lost its mark. Sure, the whole memory-tracking device itself sounds intriguing and adds that technology and science fiction vibe to the typical locked-room thriller. But once again I hoped it to be a bit… I don’t know, more exciting? More thrilling? I can’t put my finger on what exactly would have worked better for me, but I do know that this element didn’t do the story any favors in its current state.

That said, I do have to say that if you look at the writing alone I can’t deny that it’s well written and easy to read. Despite the fact that I wasn’t actually enjoying the story and the pace was quite slow in points (for a story which such a fascinating blurb, nothing much happened most of the time and it was mainly focused on the cast of unlikeable characters), I did somehow finish this story rather quickly. This has a lot to do with the writing itself, so I will definitely try more of her work in the future to see if my reaction is different. The Last Resort, sadly didn’t work for me though, and not in the least because of that over-the-top and rather absurd ending… But I guess your reaction could be completely different depending on how you react to the main characters, pace and the science fiction element.


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ARC REVIEW: The Chalet – by Catherine Cooper

Title: The Chalet
Author: Catherine Cooper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 31st 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Finished reading: October 18th 2020
Pages: 400

“For many years I’ve managed to live a normal life, thinking I’d escaped what happened in the past.”

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

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There was just something about the blurb of The Chalet that made it impossible to resist the invitation to read this debut… It might have been the setting in the French Alps, it might have been the mystery around the missing man and the promise of secrets and a potential killer… But my instincts told me I was most likely going to enjoy my time with this story. Thankfully my instincts didn’t fail me! The Chalet turned out to be a multi-layered and entertaining thriller with a setting that makes for the perfect backdrop for this story. Fans of the genre will have a great time with this one.

The Chalet is mainly set within the La Madière ski resort in France, and the many descriptions of the setting definitely made it come alive for me. The snow, the brutal weather, the chalet, the bars with its mulled wine, the ski resort in general… It almost feels like a little vacation in the form of a book, and I love it when a story is able to make me feel as if I were traveling myself. The cold winter weather is also the perfect backdrop for this story, with a man going missing in the middle of a storm and the bad weather affecting the characters in the present too. It gave the story a hint of foreboding and definitely added to the suspense.

The Chalet uses a multiple POV structure as well as switches between past and present. Not only do we slowly get to see what happened back in 1998, but we also get flashbacks of a little girl with a very difficult home situation back in London as well as multiple POVs set in the present. While initially this might seem a bit of a struggle, it is quite easy to keep the different POVs apart and I liked how the plot itself was developed. While I did see some of the twists coming, I didn’t mind too much as the plot was interesting and layered enough to keep you focused.

As for the characters… I can’t say that I actually liked them, but as a whole they make for an interesting enough cast of characters to follow. The multiple POV structure might also work in favor of the story here, as you never spend too much time with one character to actively feel annoyed by some of the actions and plot developments. The writing itself is engaging and makes it really easy to keep turning those pages. I literally finished this story in less than a day! I will be looking forward to read more books by this author in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: Black Coral – by Andrew Mayne

Title: Black Coral
(Underwater Investigation Unit #2)
Author: Andrew Mayne
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 16th 2021
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: October 24th 2020
Pages: 317

“My point is that we like to shove things into convenient boxes, even when we know they won’t fit.”

*** 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 solid detective thriller and after highly enjoying my time with the first book of the Underwater Investigation Unit series earlier this year I just couldn’t say no to reading the sequel. The Florida police diver angle had me immediately intrigued, and after an intense and action-packed first book, I had high hopes for an entertaining second round… And Black Coral turned out to be exactly the exhilarating dose of action and detective thriller I was desperately craving!

One of the things that makes this series stand out is the fact that it isn’t just your average detective thriller. The main character Sloan McPherson is a police diver and not your typical detective, and on top of this she has a very colorful family background. She is a strong, stubborn and resourceful woman and she is definitely one of the reasons this story works so well! Especially with her not being afraid to think outside the box and follow her instinct even if it means stepping on important toes or facing danger. Following Sloan is a guarantee for hours of entertainment and action-packed reading!

You can technically read this as a stand-alone, although you won’t be able to understand the character background and dynamics fully… So I would personally advice reading these in order. That said, I loved the diving angle in Black Coral, which is an element that really makes this series stand out for me. On top of this, we have a serial killer hunt and lots of action, danger and suspense involved… What more to wish for?! I did enjoy the first book a tiny bit more, but as a whole there is no denying that this was a very satisfying thriller read. If you like your thrillers fast, action-packed and exhilarating, this is definitely a series to put on your radar!


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