Monday, September 21, 2020

Mini Thriller Reviews: Kimberly Belle, Ruth Ware, & Alyssa Cole

Title: The Marriage Lie
Author: Kimberly Belle
Publication Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 334
Add to Goodreads

Amazon |

Even the perfect marriage has its dark side…

Iris and Will's marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane.

Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core. 

The Marriage Lie kicks off when Iris receives the horrible news that her husband was onboard a plane that crashed, only he shouldn't have been. This sets Iris down an obsessive path of finding out exactly why her husband was on that plane and not the one he was supposed to have boarded. She can't accept that he lied to her, although all the evidence points to it.

Although this was a quick read that successfully built suspense, it was also fairly predictable. My favorite thing in a book is a great twist and, while the author did set one up, I guessed it pretty early on. That's not to say this wasn't an enjoyable read, because I still had a great time on the journey! Thankfully, there were still some reveals I didn't see comins! Iris was a sympathetic character who I quickly identified with and other supporting characters were equally well written. This was my first Kimberly Belle read, but I definitely plan to read more by her!

Title: Dear Wife
Author: Kimberly Belle
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Publisher: Park Row
Pages: 336
Add to Goodreads

Amazon |

Beth Murphy is on the run...

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing...

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

My second Kimberly Belle read of my thriller binge was Dear Wife. This time the story follows Beth, a woman who has escaped an abusive husband and is on the run. Meanwhile, Sabine's husband is desperately searching for his missing wife. This book definitely kept me guessing! This was hard to read at times, having known someone who survived a very abusive relationship, but I feel like Beth's character was well written and I loved watching her outsmart her abusive partner.

Like I didn't figure this one out right away, which made it much more enjoyable. There was a sense of unease and waiting for the other shoe to drop from the beginning. Still, it wasn't a perfect mystery. Some things were a bit unbelievable and the entire premise was over the top. It did drag a bit in the middle, but overall I definitely enjoyed it and plan to read more of this author in the future!

Title: The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Scout Press
Pages: 337
Add to Goodreads
Amazon |

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time. 

The Turn of the Key was not my first Ruth Ware book, although it was the first one I've thoroughly enjoyed! The protagonist of this story is Rowan, a nanny who has taken a job working for a rich family at a house that can't seem to keep one employed. She's told about supposed supernatural occurrences, but doesn't believe them or care if they're true. As soon as she moves into the house things begin to spiral and a feeling of dread begins and doesn't let up until the end.

This is probably the most genuinely creepy thriller I've read recently because there was no real way to be sure whether Rowan was really seeing and hearing what she thought she was. Everything seems to be just a bit off from the start and I quickly blew through this book to figure out exactly how a child ended up dead, landing Rowan in prison.

Rowan wasn't a perfect character, but she was a sympathetic one. The children though... yikes. What a bunch of little nightmares! I did really enjoy the way this story was written, although the letter format didn't quite fit all the time. I can't wait to try another Ruth Ware book and hope it's just as good!

Title: When No One Is Watching
Author: Alyssa Cole
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 368
Add to Goodreads
Amazon |

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

I've seen a LOT of people compare this book to Get Out and, while I can see the comparison, it really didn't hit the same high for me. I went into When No One Is Watching expecting a thriller, but what I got was more of a suspenseful romance novel. There are often side romances in thrillers, but in this book the romance definitely overtook the mystery.

Speaking of mystery, it really didn't pick up until very late in the book. Much of this story reads like contemporary romance, but when the thrills did happen, they were definitely suspenseful! Things did get a bit over the top by the end, but it was enjoyable and made for a quick last few pages. And let's be honest, I'm here for over the top, weird stories. While contemporary romance isn't my genre, I'll be picking up Alyssa Cole's next thriller if she does publish another!

Title: One By One
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Publisher: Scout Press
Pages: 384
Add to Goodreads
Amazon |

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

I found out about One By One when I saw the gorgeous Waterstone's exclusive edition. Luckily, I didn't preorder it because this did not turn out to be the book for me. It follows a large group of executives from an app called Snoop. The very concept of Snoop was really bizarre and I can't imagine anyone actually using it, but I digress.

This book suffered from a few things. One of them was the very large cast that really wasn't fleshed out enough to keep them separate. It also really dragged once the avalanche happened with all the characters stuck together. There was a lot of talking, a lot of sleeping, and eating, but not much suspense. The villain also really didn't make any sense to me, although I've seen a lot of people calling it predictable.

This wasn't a bad book, it just didn't live up to the high I just came off of with The Turn of the Key. I want more of that from Ruth Ware and less of whatever this is.