Twisted Lies

Bookouture

US Publication – May 13,2021

🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2

Description

Her stomach lurches as she sits in the windowless room. He throws her phone to the ground, grinds it against the floor with the heel of his shoe and brings his face closer to hers. There was no turning back now, her life as she knew it was gone.

When the lifeless body of a man is found on an industrial estate, Detective Kim Stone arrives on the scene and discovers he’s been tortured in the worst way imaginable.

But as she breaks the devastating news to the victim’s wife, Diane Phipps, Kim can’t help feeling that something isn’t quite right about the woman’s reaction.

Twenty-four hours later, the victim’s family disappears into thin air.

Then a second body is found staked to the ground in a local nature reserve.

Desperate to crack the case open quickly, Kim and her team unravel a vital clue – a fiercely guarded secret that links both victims and could cost even more lives.

A secret that some police officers are also protecting.

Faced with deceit from those she should be able to trust, family members who won’t talk, and local reporter, Tracy Frost, opening a can of worms on the case of a woman murdered by her husband a year ago – Kim is in deep water like never before.

Kim must find the motive if she is to find the killer who is systematically targeting and torturing his victims. But can she unlock the shocking truth and stop him before he strikes again?

An absolutely jaw-dropping crime thriller from the number one, multi-million-copy bestselling author of the incredibly addictive Detective Kim Stone series.

My Thoughts

Whenever I see that Angela Marsons is publishing a new book in her Detective Kim Stone series, I know that I will be looking forward to another good read. Twisted Lies is the fourteenth book, and honestly, I think this series just keeps getting better.

Kim and her team(Bryant, Stacey, and Penn) are about to go up against one of the most sadistic killers I have ever seen in a book. None of their previous cases have prepared them for a body that was tortured over an extended period of time As if one killing isn’t enough, the body count rises, and each victim is murdered horrifically. Trying to figure out what the victims have in common won’t be easy, especially when it seems someone in authority knows more than they are sharing.

The second plot involved Tracy Frost, a reporter that Kim barely tolerates. When a murdered woman is about to be denied justice, Tracy sets out to tell the truth about the victim and her abusive husband. Kim doesn’t spend much time making relationships a priority except for her team, but a grudging glimmer of mutual respect may wind up developing between these two women.

Combine a determined killer with a reporter’s quest to do the right thing, and this book resonated with me on every level. Add in the fact that Stacey is also coming into her own, and the fact that I just adore Penn, and this was a fast-paced page-flipping really good read. 4.5 stars.

I received a DRC from Bookouture through NetGalley.

Madam

St. Martin’s Press

US Publication – May 18,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

A riveting, modern gothic debut with shades of The Secret History, The Stepford Wives, and a dash of Circe, set at a secretive all girls’ boarding school perched on a craggy Scottish peninsula.

For 150 years, high above rocky Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat untouched, a beacon of excellence in an old ancestral castle. A boarding school for girls, it promises that the young women lucky enough to be admitted will emerge “resilient and ready to serve society.”

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie: a 26-year-old Classics teacher, Caldonbrae’s new head of the department, and the first hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose is overwhelmed to be invited into this institution, whose prestige is unrivaled. But she quickly discovers that behind the school’s elitist veneer lies an impenetrable, starkly traditional culture that she struggles to reconcile with her modernist beliefs—not to mention her commitment to educating “girls for the future.”

It also doesn’t take long for Rose to suspect that there’s more to the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor—a woman whose ghost lingers everywhere—than anyone is willing to let on. In her search for this mysterious former teacher, Rose instead uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, forcing her to confront the true extent of the school’s nefarious purpose, and her own role in perpetuating it.

A darkly feminist tale pitched against a haunting backdrop, and populated by an electrifying cast of heroines, Madam will keep readers engrossed until the breathtaking conclusion.

My Thoughts

Rose Christie is a teacher who has accepted a position at Caldonbrae Hall. It is the kind of job many teachers dream of obtaining. A job at such a prestigious boarding school this early in her career is almost too good to be true. If she is successful, her options for future employment and career advancement will be numerous. But why exactly was Rose chosen as the first new faculty member in over ten years?

When she arrives, the teachers and students are not at all what she expected. The faculty doesn’t seem to have time to assist her in understanding her new role, and the students are aghast when Rose actually expects them to learn. The girls who graduate are known for the quality education they receive, and Rose is truly perplexed when her students are uninterested in learning anything. Why was Rose even hired if not for her ability to teach? As more and more secrets are revealed, Rose has to decide whether she will accept what Caldonbrae Hall provides, or if she has the strength to try and find a way out for herself and the girls.

A Gothic tale that delves into some uncomfortable subject matter. The first half seemed a little slow, but by the second half, I understood what the author had been leading to, and I was engrossed. I really enjoyed when Rose was teaching the girls about the strong woman portrayed in Greek mythology. Madam is a debut novel and the author created a dark tale with a heck of an ending.

I received a DRC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

A Summer to Remember

St. Martin’s Press

US Publication – May 11,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Description

Erika Montgomery’s A Summer to Remember is “an unforgettable tale of love, loss and finding your place that glitters as brightly as the golden age of Hollywood.”–Kristy Woodson Harvey, USA Today Bestselling author of Feels Like Falling

For thirty-year-old Frankie Simon, selling movie memorabilia in the shop she opened with her late mother on Hollywood Boulevard is more than just her livelihood—it’s an enduring connection to the only family she has ever known. But when a mysterious package arrives containing a photograph of her mother and famous movie stars Glory Cartwright and her husband at a coastal film festival the year before Frankie’s birth, her life begins to unravel in ways unimaginable.

What begins is a journey along a path revealing buried family secrets, betrayals between lovers, bonds between friends. And for Frankie, as the past unlocks the present, the chance to learn that memories define who we are, and that they can show us the meaning of home and the magic of true love.

Experience the salty breeze of a Cape Cod summer as it sweeps through this sparkling, romantic, and timeless debut novel tinged with a love of old Hollywood.

“The perfect read for summer. A novel with depth, real emotions, lyrical writing, and flawed characters with whom to fall in love.”–New York Times bestselling author Karen White

My Thoughts

This book is a perfect beach read! Frankie is alone in the world since the death of her mother Maeve. She is trying to keep the memorabilia shop her mother started open, but a rent increase has her doubting her chances of success. Her mother’s boyfriend sends her a package with two unopened letters and a picture. The letters were written by Glory Cartwright, a famous actress who died many years ago.

But it is the picture that grabs Frankie’s attention, her much younger mother is in it along with Glory. Frankie never knew that they were acquainted, just like her mother never told her the identity of her father. Thinking this might be a clue that will lead her to her father, Frankie heads to Cape Cod eager to learn more about the time her mother spent there.

Chapters alternate between the past and the present. We learn Maeve’s connection to Glory and what lead to her death. If I had to pick which timeline I enjoyed the most, it would have to be the past. That is how we learn the secrets to this mystery about Maeve’s past and how Frankie comes to discover another side to her mother. I kept flipping the pages to see how everything would come together.

An engaging plot, interesting characters, and enough red herrings so that it wasn’t at all easy to guess what secrets the past held. My favorite characters were Lou and Russ, a couple that Frankie winds up staying with and who were also very involved in the past timeline. This was an above-average debut in my opinion.4.5 stars.

I received a DRC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

The Plot

Celadon Books

US Publication – May 11,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

“Insanely readable.” —Stephen King

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that—a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts

Life hasn’t gone the way Jacob Finch Bonner imagined. After his first published book receives some recognition, he expects more, more words to flow, more attention, and more fame. What he gets is a subpar second novel, a dose of writer’s block, and a job at a third rate college teaching MFA students. Add to his anger and disappointment, a young student, Evan Parker who has come up with the perfect plot for his book. Jacob can barley contain his jealousy, certain that Evan’s book will get all the accolades Jacob deserves.

Time passes and Jacob’s life does not improve. Searching for what he is sure is a best seller by Evan, he is stunned to discover that Evan died shortly after taking his class. That plot, that unused and unwritten plot is still out there, seemingly just waiting for Jacob to write the story. Is he outright stealing, after all, it is just an idea, and one that will require him to do the hard work of writing and selling the book. Who actually owns an idea?

Thus far, Jacob is a far cry from a likeable character, and I put my money on his taking the plot and writing the book. The next time we see Jacob, he has published Crib, and every one of his dreams have come true. Crib is a best seller, he is the envy of other writers, and the public can’t get enough. But Jacob worries about how he got his idea and soon someone who knows the truth might ruin everything. His career, his reputation, and his relationship with Anna, the woman of his dreams.

Jacob goes on a journey to uncover Evan’s past and discovers his killer plot might have been better left alone. As he searches for the truth and a way to save himself, someone has another plot in mind and another idea of how this story should end.

Well, that ending! I saw it coming and crossed my fingers that I was wrong. I guessed the identity of his stalker early on, and I honestly think the author meant for that to happen. We know who is pulling the strings, but can Jacob see the truth before it is too late?

A very good story about the ups and downs of a writer’s life, and even though I never really felt sorry for Jacob (he is a loathsome man), I hoped for one more killer twist and maybe even a different ending. Alas, The Plot was already written.

I received a DRC from Celadon Books through NetGalley.

Girl in the Walls

Ecco

US Publication – May 11,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Description

A mesmerizing and suspenseful coming-of-age novel about an orphan hiding within the walls of her former family home—and about what it means to be truly seen after becoming lost in life

Eventually, every hidden thing is found.

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her, before they were taken from her in a car crash. And home is where you stay, no matter what.

Eddie is a teenager trying to forget about the girl he sometimes sees out of the corner of his eye. But when his hotheaded older brother senses her, too, they are faced with the question of how to get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists. And as they try to cast her out, they unwittingly bring an unexpected and far more real threat to their doorstep.

 Written with grace and enormous heart, Girl in the Walls is a novel about carrying on through grief, forging unconventional friendships, and realizing, little by little, that we don’t need to fear what we do not understand.

My Thoughts

When Elise loses her parents in a tragic accident, she flees foster care and heads home. What she considers home might be a problem. Her family recently moved but their old house, the one that they sold, is the place that feels like home to Elise. She returns to the place where she felt safe and loved.

A new family lives there now, but that is not a deterrent to Elise. She knows how to be very quiet, and she knows every nook and cranny of this house. The parents don’t sense her presence, but brothers Eddie and Marshall feel watched, and notice things that go missing. When Marshall tries to explain that something else is in the house, his parents won’t listen, and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Marshall has no idea what he has done when he invites Traust, someone who claims he can help into their house. Traust’s own baggage will turn a lonely girl into his prey.

There are so many things to say about this story. Elise’s life has been destroyed, and being here, even hidden allows her to stay connected to her parents and not move forward. She is very mature in many ways, and as an only child myself, I didn’t find that at all unusual. Her grief has consumed her making her existence in the shadows and the walls believable. Her aloneness leads her to describe ordinary events in anything but an ordinary way. The chiming of a clock on the hour, a paragraph in a book, the noises a house makes, even a termite infestation are described in exquisite and vivid detail.

While my heart broke for this orphan girl, the author kept me on the edge of my chair, never really knowing if this story could end anyway but badly. It is a strange and beautifully written book. It is even possible that there were much deeper meanings that I failed to discern, but I do know, that more than once, I had to remember to breathe.4.5 stars.

I received a DRC from Ecco through NetGalley.

The Next Wife

Thomas & Mercer

US Publication – May 1,2021

⭐⭐⭐.5

Description

There is no limit to the lies, suspicion, and secrets that can poison the perfect marriage in this twisting novel of suspense by USA Today bestselling author Kaira Rouda.

Kate Nelson had it all. A flourishing company founded with her husband, John; a happy marriage; and a daughter, Ashlyn. The picture-perfect family. Until John left for another woman. Tish is half his age. Ambitious. She’s cultivated a friendship with Ashlyn. Tish believes she’s won.

She’s wrong.

Tish Nelson has it all. Youth, influence, a life of luxury, and a new husband. But the truth is, there’s a lot of baggage. Namely, his first wife—and suspicions of his infidelity. After all, that’s how she got John. Maybe it’s time for a romantic getaway, far from his vindictive ex. If Kate plans on getting John back, Tish is one step ahead of her.

She thinks.

But what happens next is something neither Kate nor Tish saw coming. As best-laid plans come undone, there’s no telling what a woman will do in the name of love—and revenge.

My Thoughts

Imagine building a successful business with your husband. All the long hours, no money, valuable time spent away from your daughter, and now finally the payoff, the IPO launch of EventCo. All the key employees are celebrating with you, all stock owners and all set to be rewarded for believing in the company. Look there’s John and Kate, the cofounders, their daughter Ashley, and a younger woman Tish who might be Kate twenty years ago. Sisters? I think not, she is John’s second wife.

But what happened to Team John and Kate? Well, John decided the grass was greener in his executive assistant’s office rather than in his wife’s office or even at their house. Kate still maintains her role in the company they built, though she is not a happy camper by any stretch of the imagination.

Tish is well, Tish. Young and hungry and very happy to have John and his money all to herself. If only she could make Kate and Ashley disappear, her life would be perfect. But, she does console herself with the fact that she is the new Mrs. Nelson, so technically, she won.

John starts to rethink the decision he made regarding Tish, but before he can do anything about it, a tragedy occurs. Kate and Tish will go head to head to be sure they each get what they are entitled to, and that means the other woman will be left empty-handed. Kate was a woman scorned, determined to hold onto EventCo, while Tish was just as determined to hang on to the wealthy life she felt she deserved.

The Next Wife may be considered a popcorn thriller or a good beach read. Whatever you call it, it was a fast-paced ride on the cray cray train. I saw most of the events coming but was still glued to the pages as I couldn’t wait to see which Mrs. Nelson would emerge victoriously. 3.5 stars.

I received a DRC from Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

Project Hail Mary

Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

US Publication – May 4,2021

🌟🌟🌟🌟.5

Description

A lone astronaut must save the earth from disaster in this incredible new science-based thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian.

“A novel that would have delighted Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.”—George R.R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones

“Weir’s finest work to date . . . the one book I read last year that I am certain I can recommend to anyone, no matter who, and know they’ll love it.”—Brandon Sanderson, author of the Stormlight Archive series

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

My Thoughts

Andy Weir doesn’t believe in letting his characters have an easy time. Imagine waking up in an unfamiliar environment, hooked up to more things than you can count, with no memory of how you got there or why. Yep, that is exactly what happens to Ryland Grace, and I don’t know about you, but I would be a basket case. His mission, oh just to save the earth and all its inhabitants. Easy peasy, am I right? He is the only survivor on this ship, and he must dig deep to figure out who he is and what exactly he is supposed to be doing.

Ryland isn’t someone who just gives up when things are tough. That part of his character shines through, even though initially, I had my doubts that he could figure everything out. A lot of scientific concepts went right over my head, but as the story progressed and I learned more about Ryland and his mission, guess what, it didn’t matter.

At times, I personally felt worse off than Ryland. I would start to imagine myself being on a spaceship somewhere in the universe with no idea what to do, and major panic ensued. Luckily, it was Ryland on board and not me, because he never loses his ability to think clearly and reason things out. I won’t go into heavy details about this journey, because, well spoilers, and I also think it works better going in blind. I will say that a character by the name of Rocky stole my heart.

I loved The Martian and really enjoyed Artemis. By about the midpoint of Project Hail Mary, I was furiously flipping pages and cheering for Ryland to complete his mission. The ending made me a little bit sad at first, but when I thought about it, it really seemed to work and I am not sure it could have ended any other way.4.5 stars.

I received a DRC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine through NetGalley.

The Watcher Girl

Thomas & Mercer

US Publication – May 1,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

A woman’s suspicions about her ex-boyfriend become a dangerous obsession in a twisting novel of psychological suspense by Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Minka Kent.

Eight years ago, Grace McMullen broke Sutton Whitlock’s heart when she walked away. But it was only to save him from the baggage of her own troubled past. Now all she wants is to make sure he’s okay.

Only everything she learns about him online says otherwise. According to his social media accounts, he placed roots in her hometown, married a look-alike, and even named his daughter Grace. He clearly hasn’t moved on. In fact, it’s creepy. So Grace does what any concerned ex-girlfriend would do: she moves home…and watches him.

But when Grace crosses paths with Sutton’s wife, Campbell, an unexpected friendship develops. Campbell has no idea whom she’s inviting into her life. As the women grow closer, it becomes clear to Grace that Sutton is not the sentimental man she once knew. He seems controlling, unstable, and threatening. And what a broken man like Sutton is capable of, Grace can only imagine. It’s up to her to save Campbell and her baby now—but while she’s been watching them, who’s been watching her?

My Thoughts

Grace McMullen has come home to her father’s house for the first time in years. He is surprised but delighted to see her. But for Grace, he is the means to an end, a reason for her to be in her hometown. Her ex-boyfriend Sutton, the man whose heart she broke, has moved to this very town. Married to a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Grace. They also have a daughter who is oddly named, Grace. This sets off all kinds of warning bells in Grace’s mind. Has Sutton never gotten over her? Grace doesn’t believe in coincidences, and she has come home to resolve her past with Sutton.

What she doesn’t plan is to meet his wife Campbell. She also doesn’t recognize the man Campbell describes. He is nothing like the Sutton she knew and loved, and when she fears he is abusing Campbell, her objective changes. Grace makes her living by fixing things, and she will fix this situation too, even if Sutton gets hurt in the process.

Well, this was quite a good and fast-paced read. Grace carries a ton of emotional baggage from her childhood. She learns things that she believed about her family aren’t true, Sutton is not the same person, and suddenly, her whole world and viewpoints shift. The question remains, who is the stalker and who is their prey? Answers will be revealed and by the end. Grace might even see a different future.

I didn’t realize this was a follow-up to The Memory Watcher. Grace was just a child in that book and I want to read it and learn more about her dysfunctional family!

I received a DRC from Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.

The Newcomer

St. Martin’s Press

US Publication – May 4,2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

Mary Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads delivers her next page-turner for the summer with The Newcomer.

In trouble and on the run…

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.” So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road . . .

With a trunkful of emotional baggage…

and her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling…

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

 

My Thoughts

Letty Carnahan promised her sister Tanya that she would take care of her daughter if anything ever happened to her. She never thought that she would find her sister’s body, and wind up on the run with four-year-old Maya. Tanya told her that it would be her ex, Evan, who wanted her dead, and now Letty’s grief has to be contained if she wants to keep Maya safe from Evan.

Letty finds Tanya’s go-bag, full of cash and an old newspaper clipping. What did The Murmuring Surf Motel in Florida mean to Tanya? With no better idea of where to go, Letty heads to this place, hoping to buy some time and figure out what to do next. Maybe the staff remembers Tanya and she will even find out why her sister spent time here.

Letty finds much more than she hoped. Friends who become family to her and Maya, and a potential love interest too. But everything isn’t gorgeous weather and pool parties in sunny Florida. Evan isn’t the type to give up easily, getting his daughter back, and riding himself of Letty means no one is going to have a relaxing day at the beach.

The Newcomer is an engaging story and when I started all I could think was, beach read! There is just something about a Mary Kay Andrews’ book that puts me in the mood for a lazy reading day. Murder, mystery, friendship, love, loss, and quirky characters are sure to make this a favorite summertime book. How nice to escape from this ongoing pandemic for a little while and make some new, unforgettable book friends.

I received a DRC from St.Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

The Girl Who Died

St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur

US Publication – May 4,2021

🌟🌟🌟🌟

Description

“Is this the best crime writer in the world today? If you’re looking for a mystery to get lost in during lockdown…” —The Times, UK

“A world-class crime writer…One of the most astonishing plots of modern crime fiction” —Sunday Times, UK

“It is nothing less than a landmark in modern crime fiction.” —The Times, UK

From Ragnar Jónasson, the award-winning author of the international bestselling Ari Thór series, The Girl Who Died is a standalone thriller about a young woman seeking a new start in a secluded village where a small community is desperate to protect its secrets.

Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World

Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.

But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to just ten people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space—the site of a local legendary haunting—drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.

My Thoughts

Una is dissatisfied with her life. Her father is dead, her mother remarried, her apartment drab and dull, and her one friend seems to be too busy to spend time with Una. She decides to leave Reykjavik and accept a job teaching in the remote village of Skalar. Her idea of remote doesn’t begin to describe this fishing village, populated by only ten people, two of them the children she will instruct.

Una is given a room in a haunted house, the villagers are surly and not interested in friendship, and soon the relentless darkness has Una questioning her sanity. There is one person, Thor, who might become a friend, but he sends mixed messages, and everyone seems to have a secret, or twelve. The setting is beautifully described, it is eerie, empty, and desolate, but at times, the wind and the sea are bracing and beautiful. When tragedy strikes, Una must figure out what is hidden in the shadows if she hopes to survive.

Even though I disagreed with most of the decisions Una made, I am not sure what I would have done in the same situation. Oh I know, leave, but then there would not have been this creepy book! Una carries some heavy baggage from her past, and there is little doubt that it has shaped her perception of others and controls her life. I was in furious page flipping mode, trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together. It was an enjoyable way to leave quarantine without leaving my house.

I received a DRC from St.Martin’s Press/Minotaur through NetGalley.