YVO’S SHORTIES #121 – Smoke In The Sun & The Cellar

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around to YA reads that I fully expected to enjoy thoroughly, but failed to blow me away in the end. The first is the duology conclusion Smoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh, which I was expecting to be another 5 star read after loving the first book last year, but it wasn’t ment to be. And while the premise of The Cellar by Natasha Preston is absolutely fascinating, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would.


Title: Smoke In The Sun
(Flame In The Mist #2)
Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 1st 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 20th 2019
Pages: 416

“Honor was a thing to hate. It drove people to act foolishly, as though they were heroes. As though they were invincible.”


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I’m still surprised I reacted this way to this duology conclusion, because I absolutely loved Flame In The Mist last year and it was one of my 2018 favorites. It might have been that my expectations were set too high, it might have been that I should have reread the first book before starting Smoke In The Sun because I had forgotten about a lot of details… But the fact is, I never felt that same love for the sequel. Even with the help of the glossary in the back, I kind of struggled to keep all the different characters, POVs and plotlines apart, and that made me enjoy the story a lot less. The writing is solid, and I liked the Japanese elements incorporated into the story, as it gives the story the right atmosphere. I would have liked to see the magic more developed though, as it would have given the story that little something extra. Instead, Smoke In The Sun focuses a lot on the relationships between the different characters. To make things worse, we have a love triangle to deal with… And I wasn’t sure if I liked the character development of certain characters. I still think Mariko is a very strong and resourceful main character, and I still liked Okami, but for me Smoke In The Sun lacked some of that special ‘magic’ that turned the first book into a favorite for me. It’s not a bad read, but sadly it wasn’t what I hoped it would be either.


Title: The Cellar
(The Cellar #1)
Author: Natasha Preston

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 1st 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: August 22nd 2019
Pages: 368

“This was a morning from a nightmare – one that I couldn’t wake up from.”


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I’ve had The Cellar on my TBR for quite some time now… When my TBR jar decided it was time to read it and I reread the blurb, I was instantly excited to finally pick it up. The premise of this story is absolutely fascinating and I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since. But somehow, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. The elements are there: a twisted serial killer, a kidnapping, a prolonged hostage situation… But somehow it was all overshadowed by just how whiny and annoying the main character Summer was. I get that she is in an impossible situation and to say that she is having a hard time is an understatement, but I really couldn’t stand her character and the chapter set before the kidnapping only reconfirmed those feelings. There was too much romance and teen angst involved for me to take the plot seriously, and the final twists were not at all credible either. Another thing about the plot: the whole ‘trapped inside a room by a twisted individual’ scenario has clearly been done before, and sadly executed better in other stories I’ve had the chance to read so far (including Room, The Butterfly Garden, The Bunker Diary). It’s by no means a bad read and the serial killer we are introduced to is without doubt seriously twisted, but somehow The Cellar didn’t manage to convince me completely despite the promising premise. I don’t think I will be reading the sequel any time soon…


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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: The Essence Of Evil – by Rob Sinclair #blogtour #TheEssenceOfEvil @HeraBooks @canelo_co @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Essence Of Evil blog tour! A huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately (serial killer twin!!) and I couldn’t wait to read this title.  And it was without doubt a thrilling ride… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: The Essence Of Evil
Author: Rob Sinclair
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 12th 2019
Publisher: Canelo Hera
Finished reading: September 3rd 2019
Pages: 396

“All humans are the same. We’re all made of the same stuff, and deep down every single one of us is a potential killer.”

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

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I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, a crime thriller with a detective lead that has a serial killer twin? How can I say no to that?! You guessed right, I simply couldn’t. If you, like myself, have that weird obsession with serial killer thrillers, you will be in for a treat with this first installment of a new detective series. This story will keep you on your toes and will have you biting your nails as you keep turning those pages to discover what is really going on… Both the murder case and the main lead’s personal background are simply fascinating.

So what makes The Essence Of Evil such a successful start of a new series? I already gave you a few hints, but I think our new lead DI Dani Stephens deserves to be named first. Why? While it’s true that she at first glance might seem to be like the typical damaged detective lead, there is a whole lot more to her character. Likeable or not, there is no doubt that she is a fascinating character and one of the reasons The Essence Of Evil worked so well for me. Because Dani isn’t just a detective with a serial killer twin. Oh no, that same twin actually tried to kill her and she only just survived… Spending the next two years of her life trying to recover from the brain injury that almost killed her. Chapters set in the present are mixed with diary style entries taking place during those two years. They show us just how hard it is to recover from serious brain injuries, not only for the victims but also for those around them. I could personally really appreciate this psychological aspect of the story, as it’s not something you read about every day.

Likewise, it was intriguing to read about Dani’s return to work and how she reacts to both her co-workers and the murder case that is thrown at her the very first day she returns. Dani is desperate to go back to work and prove herself, but is she truly ready? It was interesting to see this aspect of the plot evolve as well as how the case affects Dani’s personal life. Because this isn’t just another murder investigation. Dani’s personal life plays a considerable role throughout the plot, and not just in the flashbacks and her twin brother. We also see it in her road to recovery, the things that happen to her during the investigation and the dynamics with the other members of the team. I personally enjoyed this different focus as it gave another refreshing touch to The Essence Of Evil.

Next up is the plot. With flashbacks and an active present murder investigation, there is a lot going on and you can say that The Essence Of Evil has quite a complex plot. We have Dani’s brain injury recovery, we have the murder investigation and all its complications and subplots… All woven together with a healthy dose of suspense, plot twists and plain old action. The slower flashbacks are nicely balanced with superfast action scenes, thus appealing to a wider reading audience. The writing is easy on the eye and really makes you fly through those pages… With so many twists and unanswered questions, The Essence Of Evil is one of those books you will have a hard time putting down before you know all the answers.

Did you guess already that I really enjoyed this book? Between a fascinating new lead, the serial killer element, the brain injury recovery, interesting flashbacks and an intriguing murder mystery, there is no doubt that The Essence Of Evil is a promising start of a new series and one I can recommend to fans of the genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Sinclair is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers. His books have sold over half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

http://www.robsinclairauthor.com 


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ARC REVIEW: The Sixth Wicked Child – by J.D. Barker @jdbarker

Title: The Sixth Wicked Child
(4MK Thriller #3)
Author: J.D. Barker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 27th 2019
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Finished reading: August 12th 2019
Pages: 560

“You can bury a bad thing, but those bad things have a tendency to claw their way back out of the dirt.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

Hello, my name is Yvonne and I’m addicted to serial killer thrillers. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but every time I see the word serial killer mentioned in a blurb, my heart starts beating faster and I can’t help myself but to read the whole story as soon as possible. The more disturbing, twisted and gruesome the serial killer, the happier I end up feeling after I finish it… I’m not sure what that says about me and my (possibly?) disturbing mindset, but you won’t be able to stop me from getting my dose of serial killer thrillers like you can’t you keep me from my cheese or chocolate either. And addicted or not, there is no doubt that this trilogy is the crème de la crème when it comes to serial killer thrillers. Holy cow, what a read!

The first thing you have to know about this trilogy is that it’s an absolute must reading the three books in order, because you won’t be able to follow the story or get the references otherwise. Rather than three separate stories, we deal with one big plot devided into three parts and past information is crucial to keep following Sam Porter and Anson Bishop’s story and properly enjoy the ride. And with each book being more twisted and brilliant than the previous one, you will be in for a treat with all three if you haven’t started them yet. Exactly because this is such a fluid story divided into three parts, it is very hard to discuss the plot and character developments without giving away the plot twists of the previous two books while discussing The Sixth Wicked Child. I will keep it short to avoid spoilers, but if you haven’t read the first two books yet, I suggest you skip the rest of this review just to be on the safe side.

Remember those giant cliffhangers at the end of book one and two? The Sixth Wicked Child picks up right where the second story left, and starts with a bang at that. From the very first page, I found myself glued to my seat and I couldn’t help myself devouring those pages like there was no tomorrow. 560 pages might seem a bit long for a thriller, but trust me, you won’t find a boring minute in this brilliant final episode of the 4MK trilogy and you will enjoy every suspenseful minute of the ride. You thought the first two books were intense? Guess what, J.D. Barker found a way to take the intensity up a notch and make this third book the strongest 4MK yet. Disturbing, twisted, dark, hair-raising, shocking and one heck of a crazy ride: this series is not for the weak-hearted and it will include a healthy dose of graphic scenes, abuse and violence in general.

As for the characters… I’ve grown close to Sam Porter, Ansom Bishop and the others over time and I enjoyed seeing them develop in The Sixth Wicked Child. I love how this final book gives us the necessary background information of Ansom’s childhood and connects all the dots that were still missing. The main characters are basically all flawed, but described and developed in such a way that you cannot help yourself rooting for them and hoping everything will turn out to be okay in the end. The Sixth Wicked Child makes multiple references to the first two books, and it was great seeing everything connect and work towards the big finale. There will be a lot of twists and intense moments involved, and with the help of the diary and different POVs it’s easy to get the full scope of what is happening. Guessing those twists will be another matter though, and this story will definitely have a few plot twist bomb surprises for you in store. If you have a taste for dark and disturbing thrillers and haven’t had the chance to meet 4MK yet, I can highly suggest remedying that ASAP. Why? All of the above, but in short: this series is an absolute must-read for serial killer thriller fans. Go, go, GO!


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BOOK REVIEW: Block 46 – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Block 46
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #1)

Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 21st 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 26th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Block 46’)

“Whatever she did, the words were dislodged by her thoughts; like a swarm of bees hounded from their hive, they scattered erratically, unable to organise themselves.”


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It’s been three weeks since I finished reading Block 46 and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper. Oh yes, such is the power of this story! After multiple recommendations and reading fantastic reviews about both Block 46 and Keeper, I knew I could not go wrong with this series and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for quite some time now. I think the only reason I hesitated was that I knew I was going to be blown away and that it would be impossible to write a decent review afterwards… Guess what? That is EXACTLY what happened! Even three weeks later, I’m still recovering from the shock of this brilliant and harrowing read, but the time has come to stop procrastinating and try getting something constructive on paper. I do have a copy of Keeper waiting for me I want to read before the blog tour for Blood Song starts next month after all…

The first thing that stands out is that Block 46 is basically a combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. Having both genres merged so beautifully and successfully was a huge bonus for me, as well as the fact that I have a weak spot for WWII stories and the chapters set in Buchenwald were both harrowing and fascinating at the same time. I’ve read my share of WWII fiction, and I truly believe Johana Gustawsson describes and developes the events in the Buchenwald concentration camp thoroughly and realistically. Shocking, gut-wrenching and definitely not for the weak-hearted, but then again the Holocaust was no picnic in the first place. The WWII flashbacks are expertly incorporated into the plot and give us background information as well as a possible explanation about what is happening in the present. They give this crime thriller an unique touch and really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved was the setting: I have a weak spot foreign settings and having part of the present story set in Sweden was a huge bonus for me. Descriptions of both London and Sweden setting were again thorough and really made both places come alive for me. I loved the references to Swedish culture and customs and it gave Block 46 another unique touch. Likewise, I found it to be really easy to connect to the main characters of this story. I’ve become an instant fan of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, their character development well crafted and realistic and making me root for them as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on. I love that instead of having the typical detective leads, we have a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells) instead. Talk about an interesting combination! The other characters were likewise well developed and I always love it when we get to glimpse inside the head of a serial killer.

The writing is beautiful and combined with the pace and plot I found myself to be fully absorbed in the story from the very first chapter. The structure of the plot is complex, with multiple POVs and flashbacks, adding to the richness of Block 46 and really taking this story to the next level. This story has also quite a few surprises for you in store; certain developments you definitely won’t see coming and will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. The suspense is well present and Block 46 definitely ends with a bang! This first book of what I already know will be a very successful series for me is a beautifully written and harrowing read, and 200% worth your time. If you enjoy unique crime thrillers and haven’t met Emily Roy and Alexis Castells yet, now is the time to change that… Go get a copy! Trust me, you won’t regret it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #114 – Tiger Lily & Pretty Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that failed to convince me completely… I love retellings and I’ve been meaning to read the Peter Pan retelling Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson for quite some time now, but I felt the romance was forced and the so-called spark was missing in general. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter turned out to be a very dark and disturbing read, but I had problems with the credibility of it all.


Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: July 3rd 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 15th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do.”

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I always love a good retelling and I’ve been meaning to read this Peter Pan retelling for years now. I picked up my copy of Tiger Lily on a whim, looking for something for a little something different to read… And while it served that purpose just fine, I ended up havign mixed thoughts about the story itself. First of all, Tiger Lily is without doubt a fast read and I liked how the story was told from Tink’s POV. We get to know the different characters through her eyes and she plays a small role in the story itself as well. Tiger Lily was also an interesting character as a whole, but unfortunately I felt that the so-called “spark” was missing in the story and certain characters really started to get on my nerves. I wasn’t a fan of the romance either; it felt forced and the love triangle (should I say rectangle?) was quite frustrating as well. The romance just didn’t seem natural at all and wasn’t able to convince me… I would have preferred more focus on Neverland and have other aspects of the characters more developed. I can’t say I was happy with how both the abuse and Tik Tok not being like the rest of the men of the tribe were being handled either. I liked the references to the original Peter Pan story, but as a whole this story failed to convince me completely.


Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: July 17th 2019
Pages: 548

“Every time she thought she’d hit bottom, he found a way to open a trapdoor and let her sink farther down.”

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I’m so behind when it comes to Karin Slaughter‘s books… I decided to pick up one of her books on a whim, and while I was planning to finally meet Will Trent, I ended up picking up one of her stand-alones instead. Pretty Girls has been on my TBR for quite some time, and it is also a title that has been recommended to me in the past. I’ve been looking forward to read it, and I definitely didn’t realize just how twisted things were going to get during this story. Oh yes, Pretty Girls is without doubt a breathtakingly disturbing read that will chill you to be bone… Just when you think it can’t get more disturbing and twisted, Karin Slaughter let’s you know another nugget of the full truth and disturbing is taken to a whole another level. And again. And again. The quote above describes my own feelings perfectly! Trust me when I tell you that this story isn’t for those with a weak stomach or those who are sensitive to violent scenes… Not only do we have to deal with a remarkably vile serial killer, but there are also a lot of graphic scenes involved that include torture, rape and murder. And things will get darker than a pitchblack night as both Claire and us readers start seeing the full scope of what is going on. Family drama, grief and addiction elements are mixed with a whole lot of violence, a particularly twisted serial killer, a dark and vile secret network and what can be called a conspiracy feel twist.

My main issue with Pretty Girls is simply the credibility of it all. As things were revealed and escalated more and more and more, I caught myself muttering ‘really?’ multiple times. I can’t go into details without spoiling the plot, but here’s an example: I simply don’t think the killer could have gotten away with things that long and the plot development was just way over the top for me. I also didn’t think Claire’s reaction (or Lydia’s) was all that believable as a whole. The writing itself was of course excellent and twistedness of the story without doubt made my blood curl. I just think that less would have been more in this case; less over the top plot twists and increasingly graphic and disturbing scenes, leaving room to breathe and focus on the serial killer and his actions in all his twisted glory. I’m not saying that Pretty Girls was a bad read (on the contrary), but it wasn’t my favorite Slaughter either. If you haven’t tried Pretty Girls yet, definitely make sure to brace yourself for a violent, dark and disturbing ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Her Silent Cry – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: Her Silent Cry
(Detective Josie Quinn #6)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 14th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 24th 2019
Pages: ?

“Every one of us goes through our days looking straight at people and things but not really taking them in.”

*** 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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I’ve been a fan of this series ever since I read the first book about eighteen months ago. With each new meeting with Detective Josie Quinn, my love for this series is only reconfirmed all over again and each book brings the promise of yet another intense and suspenseful ride. Her Silent Cry is no exception to the rule, and already the sixth successful installment of this detective series. Want to know why?

First of all, the simple fact of being able to meet up with some of your favorite characters again is always a fantastic feeling. Josie Quinn and her team managed to win over my heart from the start, and with each new story it feels as if you are meeting up again with old friends. You can see their characters develop over time, the events of the different books leaving its mark on their characters as well as the dynamics between them. While it’s true you can technically read Her Silent Cry as a stand-alone with only minor loss of background information, you will miss out on references to the past and might not fully get the dynamics between the different characters. And with the first five books all being thrilling and intense rides, there’s no excuse not to catch up with the past before diving into the newest Detective Josie Quinn!

In Her Silent Cry you will find new developments relating to the personal life of Josie Quinn, and that part of the storyline definitely left me wanting for more! Josie, Noah, Gretchen and even Misty and Trinity play a role throughout the story, although the main focus is on the new case that started developing right under Josie’s nose. It’s a missing child this time around, and a case that turns out to be a lot more sinister and complicated than you might think when little Lucy first goes missing… The little chapters with nameless characters give you a hint, but you’ll find yourself wondering how everything actually connects as you keep turning those pages and things are getting more and more critical. A fast pace is combined with a suspenseful and twisted plot filled with secrets and turns and together they will make the intensity level go through the roof. Josie Quinn and her team are finding themselves in a race against the clock, desperately trying to find Lucy alive and stop more people from getting hurt… But things are not that simple as certain people seem to be hiding crucial information that could potentially help them get Lucy back. As always, you might wonder about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, but I myself was too busy flying through the pages and enjoying myself to really stand still by that. If you are a fan of intense and thrilling detective thrillers that pack a punch, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Detective Josie Quinn soon!


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