YVO’S SHORTIES #188 – He Started It & Only Mostly Devastated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards nominees belonging to different genress. He Started It sadly didn’t live up to expectations for me; something I’m still surprised about… Only Mostly Devastated turned out to be a great read though.


Title: He Started It
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 10th 2020
Pages: 400

“I wonder how many bad things have been explained by such a simple phrase, a simple idea. Because I could. Because no one stopped me. Because it was easy.”


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Well, well, well, what do we have here? I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again… So many people have praised He Started It and after loving her previous book My Lovely Wife I was fully expecting to have a repeat experience with this one. Especially since I always enjoy road trip stories in the first place… I’m not sure if it’s because psychological thrillers don’t seem to work as well for me right now, but the fact is: I was bored. A LOT. Up to the point that I kept wondering when the cursed road trip was finally going to end so I could get this story over with. The pace was just way too slow for me, which is strange as the characters are basically in constant movement… But there was just something static about the whole story. Top this with highly unlikeable characters and I had a really hard time to stay invested. True, there were some surprises including the ending, but overall sadly I can’t say I enjoyed my time with this one.


Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2020
Pages: 272

“We had no way of knowing what the future held. People changed their minds, people passed away, people moved unexpectedly. The only thing we could ever really do was play it by ear.”


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I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the Grease mention… I must have watched that movie a million times as a kid, so I simply HAD to read Only Mostly Devastated for nostalgic reasons alone. I must say that I was expecting more of a fluffy romcom after the cover and blurb, which I can confirm that this story is not. In fact, Only Mostly Devastated is quite heavy on the more serious topics and has a healthy dose of drama as well as heartbreaking moments. And no, they are not just relating to the relationship between the main characters as the blurb might make you think… There is a big focus on Ollie and his parents trying to help his aunt and her family as she is fighting cancer, which might be triggering for some readers. That said, I did think this topic was quite well handled. Thankfully we will see lighter moments too, and I especially loved seeing Ollie interact with his new friends as well as his niece and nephew. Both Will and Ollie could get a little frustrating at times, but overall I did have a great time reading this story. Would I have loved to see more Grease elements? Most definitely. But I liked this spin off very much and it has a great cast of characters that will most likely appeal to those who enjoy the genre. Just make sure to brace yourself for quite a few heartbreaking moments thrown in instead of just your regular dose of fluff… Chocolates and tissues are probably mandatory.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #186 – We Were The Salt Of The Sea & Anxious People

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today is translated fiction day with two translations… The first, We Were The Salt Of The Sea, somehow sadly didn’t work for me at all, but I absolutely loved my time with Anxious People. No surprise here, as I adore everything Fredrik Backman writes in general…


Title: We Were The Salt Of The Sea
(Enquêteur Moralès #1)
Author: Roxanne Bouchard

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: 2014
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 25th 2020
Pages: 300
(Originally published in French: ‘Nouse étions le sel de la mer’)

“Sometimes all we want is for time to stop catching up with us.”


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Okay… I’m not sure what happened here, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again? I’m still surprised as I’ve never had an Orenda miss before and fellow bloggers seem to love We Were The Salt Of The Sea… But somehow this story just didn’t seem to work at all for me. It might just have been the wrong time for me to pick up this story, but the fact this that I really struggled with both the writing style and plot in general. Somehow, I was never able to connect to the writing, and the catch phrases of some of the characters (‘Heee’ and ‘Christ in a chalice!’) REALLY got on my nerves after a while. Instead of making it easier to recognize the characters, it only made me like both the characters and the story considerably less… Always a complication but even worse in a mostly character-driven story. And as much as I loved the setting and the many descriptions of the sea, the plot was a bit all over the place for me as well. On top of this, We Were The Salt Of The Sea also included one of my mayor pet peeves: cheating. I never react well to this element and although this is a personal reaction, it made me dislike Morales considerably. It didn’t really help improving my reaction to the story in general either… All in all We Were The Salt Of The Sea definitely wasn’t my cup of tea, but most people do seem to enjoy it a lot better so don’t give up on my account.


Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 3rd 2020
Pages: 336
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Folk med ångest’)

“Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.”


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This was easily one of my most anticipated releases this year and I simply couldn’t wait to pick it up… I know that I am a bit biased when it comes to Fredrik Backman‘s books, but I absolutely adored every single minute I spent with Anxious People. There is just something about his writing and humor that is a match made in heaven for me and this newest story has once again shown me why he is one of my absolute favorite authors. He is an absolute master in creating flawed and strangely likeable characters, and we have another fantastic cast in Anxious People. True, there are a lot of different characters in play here, but each is so unique that it is really easy to keep them apart… And they all add there little something to the plot too. I liked the structure of the plot, with different POVS mixed with police interviews with the different witnesses. You are kept in the dark along with the police officers about what really went on inside that apartment, and I thought that the different twists and the hidden identity of the bank robber was cleverly done. Humor and heavier elements are blended perfectly, and I found myself snickering more than once along the way. Fredrik Backman‘s characters have once again won over my heart and this is hands down one of my favorite stories I have had the chance to read this year.


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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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BLOG TOUR EXTRACT: The Coral Bride – by Roxanne Bouchard #extract #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Coral Bride Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Today, I will be sharing an extract of the second Detective Morales book set in Canada. Originally written in French and expertly translated by David Warriner, in The Coral Bride Roxanne Bouchard returns to main character DS Joaquin Moralès as he once again struggles to conduct a proper investigation without interference. Curious already? Let’s look at the summary before we continue to the extract itself…

What an introduction! It sounds like our main character will have his hands full once again… The sea theme seems to be a trademark of this series, and will again play an all important role in the plot. Are you ready for more? Below an extract to entice you further…

EXTRACT Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: We Begin At The End – by Chris Whitaker #buddyread

Title: We Begin At The End
Author: Chris Whitaker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 26th 2020
Publisher: Zaffre
Finished reading: October 27th 2020
Pages: 464

“You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved.”

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This was an impromptu buddy read pick with Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog… I’m so glad we decided to read We Begin At The End together, because it turned out to be the perfect buddy read and I think I was able to treasure this story even more by reading it more slowly and being able to discuss it along the way. I definitely understand the love for this story now… It’s been a week and I’m still struggling to get a proper word on paper; such is the power of this book! I confess that I went in blind (something I tend to do to avoid spoilers) and I wasn’t sure what kind of story to expect, but I ended up being completely bowled over by this story. It’s such a raw, emotional and simply heartwrenching read! I’ve decided to keep this review short as I’m not only lost for words to describe my experience with this stunning story properly, but it is also one of those books where it’s best to go in with a blank slate so the experience is even more rewarding.

While it is true that Nicki and I both struggled to get a grip on the story initially, it wasn’t long before Duchess, Robin and the rest of the cast wormed their way into my heart and I started to understand why more than one fellow blogger calls We Begin At The End their book of the year. The story uses a multiple POV structure and switches between past and present, creating a multi-dimentional story with a rich cast of intriguing and well developed characters. As the present storyline started to unfold, the emotions starting to get more intense and my heart went out for poor Duchess and little Robin. Walk is likewise a fascinating character that will win you over quickly, and he makes for the perfect link between past and present.

I love that We Begin At The End doesn’t reveal it all straight away, and that you only slowly learn more about exactly what happened in the past as well as what is happening in the present as the story evolves over time. We had a great time speculating on Twitter what would happen next and if we would be right with our suspicions on certain things that happened… And it is always a bonus when it isn’t easy to guess where the story is going. The plot development in general was excellent, and we most definitely didn’t see those final reveals coming! There was plenty of room for shocking twists that broke my heart a little each time… Heartwrenching and emotional indeed! Trust me, you will need a dose of something sweet long before you reach that final page, as Duchess and Robin’s story will keep smashing your poor heart with a sledgehammer along the way. The journey is absolutely worth it though!

We Begin At The End was the perfect buddy read and an absolutely stunning story that I cannot recommend enough. It is an extraordinary as well as highly emotional journey that will leave you a blubbering mess long before you reach that final page… Make sure to have some tissues and chocolate at hand just in case!


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DNF ARC REVIEW: The Silent Daughter – by Kirsty Ferguson

Title: The Silent Daughter
Author: Kirsty Ferguson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 10th 2020
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Finished reading: October 21st 2020
Pages: 336
DNF at 23% (77 pages)

“That was how she felt. Alone, adrift in a sea of people who looked like her, but she could never seem to find a way in with them.”

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

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I confess that this was what I now call an ‘oops’ request… I’ve learned my lesson not to browse Netgalley while still half asleep the hard way, that’s for sure! Somehow psychological/domestic thrillers haven’t really worked for me lately, and my negative reaction to The Silent Daughter might have had something to do with that… But there is no denying that I REALLY struggled with this story, up until the point I had to make the difficult decision to make this title my fourth DNF of the year. Since I threw in the towel at 23%, I don’t have much to say about the story to be honest… But I’ll explain briefly below why I made the decision to not finish reading this one.

First of all I do have to say that I find the premise of The Silent Daughter to be pretty interesting. The house fire, the secrets, someone maybe wanting the main character dead… It sounded pretty promising, but somehow the execution just didn’t do it for me at all. My first turn off has to do with the constant abuse and bullying taking over the rest of the plot. It’s a trigger worthy topic and I don’t mind it in my stories as long as it is well incorporated into the plot, but it was just way too much in The Silent Daughter. Instead of developing the storylines and adding more dept, we only got to see more and more scenes with abuse and bullying, and it seriously made me feel too uncomfortable and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. On top of this, there is the adult content. I’m never a fan of sexy scenes, but I can tolerate them when they are done right and that wasn’t the case here. Another huge turn off for me!

On top of this, I found the characters to be considerably unlikeable. Not liking the characters made it really hard to feel sympathy for them, and the over the top abuse/bullying scenes didn’t help either. The worst part was probably the plot itself though. Sadly, I found the plot to be an uncoherent mess (or at least in the part I did read). The story jumped between past and present and different moments in time without warning and this was not only irritating but made it really hard to follow the story itself. I wasn’t a fan of the tone or writing either… All in all unfortunately The Silent Daughter definitely wasn’t a match for me. I always hate having to make the decision to DNF, but sadly I saw no other way out here.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #183 – The Bird Tribunal & Mexican Gothic

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around It’s All About Books has turned to the dark side with an eerie nordic noir story (The Bird Tribunal) and a piece of historical gothic horror set in Mexico (Mexican Gothic).


Title: The Bird Tribunal
Author: Agnes Ravatn

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 1st 2013
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 11th 2020
Pages: 192
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Fugletribunalet’)

“But here was the thing: it required willpower to build willpower.”


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I’ve had The Bird Tribunal on my radar for a while now, and after a fantastic experience with her newest title The Seven Doors I decided to simply give in and finally read it. I’m honestly a bit lost for words as this turned out to be such an odd and intriguing story! Basically there isn’t all that much happening plot wise; the focus is instead on the main characters and what is an absolutely fantastic description of the Norwegian setting. Oh yes, both the setting and the brilliant creation of that eerie and ominous vibe steal the show and are definitely the strongest asset of this piece of nordic noir together with the beautiful writing. Where the characters were a tad too unlikeable for me and I found the ending to be too predictable, it was the writing and the stunning descriptions of the Norwegian setting that swept me off my feet… And we even get a dose of Norse mythology along the way as well. Like I said, I wasn’t really a fan of the characters though, which did cause some inconvenience as this is mostly a slower-paced and essentially character-driven story. Somehow I was never able to warm up to Allis nor Sigurd… But that might just have been me. You will want to read The Bird Tribunal for the stunning writing and descriptions alone though if you are a fan of the nordic noir genre.


Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror
First published: June 30th 2020
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: October 20th 2020
Pages: 304

“The serpent does not devour its tail, it devours everything around it, voracious, its appetite never quenched.”


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I confess that I was going to try Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other story Gods Of Jade And Shadow first, but there has been so much hype around Mexican Gothic that I simply couldn’t resist trying it myself. Now that I’ve finally gotten the chance to read it, I can understand the love for it. This story is dark, this story is eerie, this story is gothic horror at its best… It’s simply glorious! I loved the 1950s Mexico setting and the ominous and gloomy atmosphere of the High Place mansion is simply spot on. Historical elements are mixed with horror and even the supernatural and the writing itself is simply exquisite. I can’t deny the pace is considerably slow in points though… And this can definitely be a turn off for those who prefer a story with a faster pace. The glorious writing mostly made up for this feeling of slowness for me, and I liked how the secrets of High Place are only slowly revealed as the main character Noemí discovers them herself. She might seem like a flighty character, but I liked how she reacted to the situation in High Place as well as her determination in doing what is best for her cousin. The plot itself is once again quite slow-paced, but does work towards a final escalation and the story definitely ends with a bang. If you enjoy the gothic horror genre, don’t mind a slow pace or a touch of the supernatural and appreciate dark and atmospheric reads, Mexican Gothic might just be the perfect match.


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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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