Never Turn Back

Crooked Lane Books

US Publication – October 6,2020



Linwood Barclay meets Michael Farris Smith in this Southern-set domestic thriller about family, vengeance, and atonement from critically acclaimed Southern mystery novelist Christopher Swann.

The bonds of family never truly let go.

In fact, its grip only tightens the further you try to run: crushing and crippling.

Ethan Faulkner is a precocious child with a brilliant but troublesome sister, a war vet for a father and a weary mother trying to manage their family. One night, a young woman rings their doorbell, desperate to hide from two men who are pursuing her when one of the two barges in after her. The struggle leaves both of Ethan’s parents dead.

Years later, Ethan has a successful teaching career and a budding relationship with a coworker, Marisa. But he hasn’t quite followed through on his promise to dying father–take care of his sister. Susannah is not an easy person to keep tabs on, is a handful even when the tabs are kept, and quite frankly, Ethan wants her to suffer for preventing him from getting to dad before he died all those years ago.

It was a long time ago and Ethan tries to leave all of it behind him. But it seems to be the only thing Marisa is interested in discussing. When Ethan attempts to break it off, Marisa’s reaction threatens to shatter the life that Ethan has carefully constructed. Before long, news of a shocking murder breaks with evidence pointing to Ethan as the prime suspect, leaving him no choice but to dig up the painful memories of the past in order to find the truth of the present.

Lyrically conveyed with emotion and nuance, Never Turn Back is a powerful story about family, vengeance, and how some actions echo through the years with irreparable consequences.


My Thoughts

Ethan lost her parents when he was just a child. His younger sister Susannah and Ethan both carry physical and emotional scars. Ethan teaches at a school he loves, rents a small home in a quiet neighborhood, and has the best roommate, his dog Wilson. When he attends a conference, he meets and sleeps with Marisa, not realizing this one decision will change his life.

Ethan is surprised when Marisa applies for a job at his school, but he likes her and thinks he might finally be able to move forward from the memories of his painful past. Until she seems to know more about what happened to his parents than she should, and she starts acting, shall we say, odd. His decision to walk away from her doesn’t sit well with Marisa. Soon, his life is a mess, his job is on the line, his sister’s fragile mental state is under attack, and even his oldest friend Frankie might not escape unharmed. The only person who can save Ethan is Ethan, as he digs into the past, trying to understand what is going on.

So what did I love about Never Turn Back, Ethan! He lived through such a traumatic event, and yet, he managed to make a life for himself. Granted, his relationship with his sister was problematic, and he relives the night of his parents’ deaths, but he is trying to come to terms with the past. Everything spirals out of control once Marisa enters the picture, and yes, I did love to hate this character. All I could think about was leave Ethan alone and don’t even look at Wilson!

There was only one twist that surprised me, but to me, this was more of a mystery than a thriller. Fast-paced with a great main character whose life has more layers than an onion. My first read by Christopher Swann and I enjoyed his writing style.

I received a DRC from Crooked Lane Books through Edelweiss +.


The Cabin on Souder Hill

Blackstone Publishing

US Publication – September 29,2020



In the southern Appalachian Mountains, a woman stumbles into dark family secrets, backwoods justice, and seemingly impossible events that threaten to rip apart her world.


Michelle and Cliff Stage bought their isolated vacation cabin in the mountains of North Carolina with hopes of repairing their eighteen-year marriage. But when Cliff disappears one night searching for the source of a mysterious light in the woods, Michelle’s life will change in unimaginable ways. After the sheriff’s department fails to find him, Michelle scrambles down the same dark mountainside alone, the strange, beckoning light her only guide.

What she discovers is a cabin, identical to theirs, housing a life she barely recognizes—and a husband she hardly knows. Cliff is a changed man. Now caring and considerate, no longer a manipulative womanizer, he is also missing a finger. He claims that Cassie, their teenage daughter, is dead, killed in a car accident over a year ago. Michelle knows that’s not possible—Cassie had phoned her from Atlanta only hours before. Even when shown Cassie’s grave, Michelle refuses to accept she’s gone.

Michelle wants her daughter and her life back, and the only clue to what has happened is a man named Pink. A real estate agent and the man who years earlier built Michelle and Cliff’s cabin, Pink was rumored to have killed his wife and buried her on the property then vanished never to be seen again. But in Michelle’s new reality, Pink and his wife still reside in town and Pink’s smile-splashed billboards are everywhere. To get back to the world where her daughter exists, Michelle must unravel the mystery of Pink while questioning her very reality—and her sanity. Haunting, atmospheric, and deeply thought-provoking, The Cabin on Souder Hill questions the very nature of our existence and the choices we make to form it.


My Thoughts

This book was quite different than what I imagined from the description. There was a lot more going on than just a creepy cabin in the woods. I had assumed the story would revolve around this, but, while it is important, it is not the central theme of The Cabin on Souder Hill.

Michelle and Cliff have gone to their vacation cabin. Their marriage is strained and they have left their daughter home in Atlanta so they can spend some quality time together. When Cliff sees a strange light in the woods, he goes to investigate and doesn’t return. Michelle goes looking for him and finds Cliff in a cabin, a cabin that looks a lot like the one they own. He states she is the one who has been missing and this new reality does not agree with anything Michelle knows.

When Cliff takes Michelle back to Atlanta, he delivers the devastating news that their daughter has been dead for a year. Michelle knows she just spoke to her before she went searching for Cliff, and she knows she must head back to the cabin for answers. Michelle isn’t sure what to believe, but she knows there is more to the story.

As if things weren’t weird enough, at this point the character of Pink and his extremely odd family take over the story. Michelle goes to him for help, and honestly when the two of them were together, Pink made me laugh. Not so much when he interacted with his mother, wife, and sister in law. Kudos to the author for making me care about the oh so unlikeable Pink. I was hoping that the version of Pink I liked would be transported to a new reality, one where he had a shot at happiness.

This is all I can say without entering spoiler territory. It is an odd story but one that kept me trying to figure out what the heck was going on. 3.5 stars.

I received a DRC from Blackstone Publishing through Edelweiss +.

The Skylark’s Secret

Amazon Publishing UK

US Publication – September 29,2020



Loch Ewe, 1940. When gamekeeper’s daughter Flora’s remote highland village finds itself the base for the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys, life in her close-knit community changes forever. In defiance of his disapproving father, the laird’s son falls in love with Flora, and as tensions build in their disrupted home, any chance of their happiness seems doomed.

Decades later, Flora’s daughter, singer Lexie Gordon, is forced to return to the village and to the tiny cottage where she grew up. Having long ago escaped to the bright lights of the West End, London still never truly felt like home. Now back, with a daughter of her own, Lexie learns that her mother—and the hostile-seeming village itself—have long been hiding secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew.

As she pieces together the fragments of her parents’ story, Lexie discovers the courageous, devastating sacrifices made in her name. It’s too late to rekindle her relationship with her mother, but can Lexie find it in her heart to forgive the past, to grieve for all that’s lost, and finally find her place in the world?

My Thoughts

The Skylark’s Secret follows a mother and daughter over two timelines. Flora’s life is forever changed by the horrors and losses of WWII. She comes from a small town in Scotland, Loch Ewe, which is located in a cove, and used as a base to send many ships to sea. She will experience first hand the devastation of war and the suffering endured by so many people.

Her daughter Lexie left their hometown and her mother to pursue a singing career in London. Lexie comes home broken and sad with a daughter of her own. She feels like a failure, her career is over, she is almost broke, her boyfriend abandoned her when she became pregnant, and her mother has died. She is full of love for her child but fears the townspeople will judge her harshly and she initially avoids contact with even her closest friends and those that were her mothers.

Lexie realizes that she doesn’t actually know much about her mother’s life during the war, or her father who died before she was born. Told in the past through Flora’s eyes, and in the present by Lexie slowly opening herself to the possibility of a new life, this was a heartbreaking and compelling read. At first, I was more interested in Lexie’s story, but after several of Flora’s chapters, I was hooked on both timelines.

I tend to gravitate towards historical fiction almost as a palate cleanser when I have read one too many mysteries, thriller, or horror books. Not only was the writing beautiful and descriptive, but I found myself really caring about many of these characters.

I received a DRC from Amazon Publishing UK through NetGalley.

The Loop

Gallery/Saga Press

US Publication – September 29,2020



Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.

Turner Falls is a small tourist town nestled in the hills of western Oregon, the kind of town you escape to for a vacation. When an inexplicable outbreak rapidly develops, this idyllic town becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence as the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and Lucy and her friends must do everything it takes just to fight through the night.


My Thoughts

Once upon a time in the town of Turner Falls, there lived the adopted daughter of Bill and Carol Henderson, Lucy. She was originally from Peru, and if it wasn’t for her best friend, Bucket, she would be the only person with brown skin at her high school. The evil and rich princes and princesses loved to humiliate Lucy and Bucket, and they were very sad most of the time. They were living for the day that they could escape this evil kingdom, and find a place where they would be valued for who and what they are, not judged by their looks alone.

One night, Lucy and Bucket go with their friend Brewer to a party where all of the rich kids have gathered. They will journey deep into the caves under Turner Falls, and come face to face with evil. A virus, or contagion, or perhaps an evil spell soon overtakes the princesses and princes, and nothing will stand in the way of their murderous intentions.

It is up to the brave and heroic Lucy, along with Brewer and Bucket to save the good people of Turner Falls and make the villains pay. But there is more at work here than a greedy biotech firm with an untested invention. Evil has been released and all it plans to do is play its game, its way.

Our heroine Lucy is just a damaged kid when all of this begins, but she will find her inner warrior before all this ends. She will fight to do what is right for the good people of Turner Falls, and woe to those who stand in her way. And they all lived happily ever after, or not because that would be telling.

There were so many things to love about The Loop. The Nightwatchman podcast, where an outsider has many questions about all of the corporations suddenly locating in Turner Falls, especially IMTECH. What can I say about Lucy? She didn’t deserve what happened to her, but if you think life is fair, Yeah Right( this will make sense when you read the book, I swear)! She was a great character who grew by leaps and bounds, and like Robin Hood, she would take down the rich kids to try to save the poor. Her band of Merry Men, Bucket, and Brewer, with a little help along the way, were loyal and true. A crazy ride with only one part that slowed the frenetic pacing down for me.The first book I have read by this author, and not my last.

I received a DRC from Gallery/Saga Press through NetGalley.


The Nesting

US Publication – September 29,2020

Berkley Publishing Group



The woods are creeping in on a nanny and two young girls in this chilling modern Gothic thriller.

Architect Tom Faraday is determined to finish the high-concept, environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway—in the same place where he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide. It was their dream house, and he wants to honor her with it.

Lexi Ellis takes a job as his nanny and immediately falls in love with his two young daughters, especially Gaia. But something feels off in the isolated house nestled in the forest along the fjord. Lexi sees mysterious muddy footprints inside the home. Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room one day. And Gaia keeps telling her about seeing the terrifying Sad Lady. . . .

Soon Lexi suspects that Aurelia didn’t kill herself and that they are all in danger from something far more sinister lurking around them.

My Thoughts

When I started reading The Nesting, I was reminded of Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key. If you haven’t read that book, this isn’t a spoiler, but if you have, the striking similarities between Lexi and Rowan do not continue throughout the story.

Lexi has hit rock bottom. After a failed suicide attempt, she lost her job, her boyfriend breaks up with her, she has very little money, and nowhere to go. While on the train, trying to come up with some kind of plan, fate intervenes. Two women start talking about a nanny job in Norway, and Lexi is determined to be the one to get hired. All she has to do is “borrow” Sophie Hallerton’s identity and resume, create a new email address, and apply for the position. What could go wrong?

When the recently widowed Tom Faraday offers her the job, she thinks that this new start will solve all her problems. Tom is committed to finishing the house that was going to be his and his wife, Aurelia’s dream house. Of course, the real Sophie has actual nanny experience, but Lexi figures how hard can it be to Goggle some advice.

Gaia is six, and Coco is nine months old, and they miss their mother terribly, especially Gaia. She speaks of her mother running away and the scary Sad Lady who visits her at night. What the children don’t know is that Aurelia committed suicide and Tom is struggling to accept this sad truth. Sophie may not know much about being a nanny, but she is almost instantly smitten with these girls.

The house is in the middle of the woods with no playmates for the children and no one that Sophie can talk to or trust. Sophie is told the basement is off-limits, and yet she hears strange noises coming from there. Mysterious elk prints, vandalism at the job site, Nordic folklore and legends abound, and a diary left in Sophie’s room suggests Tom may have killed his wife.

Told from multiple perspectives, we learn what happened in the time leading up to Aurelia’s death. Did they cross a line when they started to build their home and interfere with nature? Are their spirits at work causing havoc and death, or are these characters stressed and hallucinating?

I was so engrossed in this creepy and eerie tale, trying to figure out what was going on. Some of the plotlines seemed not to be needed, such as Maren the housekeeper, and some other things were never fully explained, especially at the end. I think the author wanted some situations to be open to debate, or at least I hope so! Ultimately, The Nesting kept me thinking about what I read well beyond the final page. I am sure that there will be some lively book discussions after the September publication date.

I received a DRC from Berkley Publishing through NetGalley.

When the Past Kills


US Publication – September 24,2020



Think the past is over? It’s never over. The latest gripping DI Ridpath crime thriller .

A scream breaks the air in the coroner’s office. An execution is being broadcast live on the internet. An old case has come back to haunt DI Thomas Ridpath…

Coppers are being targeted. Graves desecrated. What is it – a warning? And who else will be dragged in?

Just as Ridpath’s life is getting back to normal, the investigation that defined Ridpath’s career, the Beast of Manchester, rears its head once again. But this time it’s not just the investigation at stake – it’s his life.

From bestseller M J Lee comes another completely unputdownable crime thriller, perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Mark Billingham and Cara Hunter.

My Thoughts

I have broken one of my own rules during these stay at home days. I always used to say that I would never read a series out of order, and yet with my life turned upside down, I took a chance on When the Past Kills. This is the fifth book in the DI Ridpath series, and though there were things mentioned that most likely were covered in prior books, I thought this worked fine as a standalone.

DI Ridpath has been working in the Coroner’s office since successfully battling cancer. He will be returning to his former position as a member of the Major Incident Team shortly. Currently, he is trying to get reacclimated and spends his time in both offices.

The story begins with a murder, broadcast live with a link sent to Ridpath’s boss, Mrs. Challinor. We then go back four days and witness a grave destroyed, dogs killed, and some other rather gruesome deaths. Ridpath believes these crimes are related, and that a man he arrested in the past is involved. All the evidence supports Ridpath’s theory until an airtight alibi has everyone scrambling to find the real killer.

All of the characters were well developed, and aside from the killer or killers and one member of the Major Incident Team, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Ridpath, his family, and professional colleagues. The ending made me want the sixth book, but at least I have the first four to read while I wait. I certainly picked an action-packed police procedural with an intriguing whodunnit to break my own series reading rule.

I received a DRC from Canelo through NetGalley.

The Thursday Murder Club

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

US Publication – September 22,2020



“A little beacon of pleasure in the midst of the gloom…SUCH FUN!”
–Kate Atkinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Sky

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?


My Thoughts

The Thursday Murder Club isn’t made up of your typical amateur sleuths. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim are retirees living at Coopers Chase Retirement Village. They have many varied interests, besides murder. They get together every Thursday to review old cold cases, hoping to find a lead that will bring the guilty to justice.

Their cold cases are put aside when someone they know is murdered. Confident of their skills and able to call in quite a few favors, the police will be lucky to keep up with them, even PC Donna De Freitas whom they all like. While going about their everyday routines, they find the time to ask questions and investigate hunches and are determined to find the killer. Always focused and cool, they work every angle and see things more clearly, perhaps because with age comes wisdom.

If this sounds strange, it is just because these senior citizens are sharp, witty, and have unique perspectives. Elizabeth is the leader of this merry band and she sets the tone for the group. Joyce shares her diary entries which provide extra detail into their lives. I certainly thought of Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher more than once. A cozy mystery with an eccentric and unusual cast of characters and quite a few red herrings.

I first read an excerpt from this book in Buzz Books 2020 Fall/Winter edition and added it to my TBR list. I haven’t been let down by any book I have chosen so far, and if this is the start of a series, count me in!

I received a DRC from Pamela Dorman Books through Edelweiss+.

Girl Gone Mad

Lake Union Publishing

US Publication – September 1,2020



They say everything is fun and games until someone gets hurt. Well, someone did—and now the game has changed…

Emily Bennett works as a therapist in Pennsylvania, helping children overcome their troubled pasts—even as she struggles to forget her own. Once upon a time, Emily was part of a middle school clique called the Harpies—six popular girls who bullied the new girl to her breaking point.

The Harpies took a blood oath: never tell a soul what they did to Grace Farmer.

Now, fourteen years later, it seems karma has caught up to them when one member of that vicious circle commits suicide. But when a second Harpy is discovered dead shortly after, also from apparent suicide, the deaths start to look suspicious. And when Emily starts seeing a woman who looks a lot like Grace Farmer lurking in the shadows, she’s forced to wonder: Is Grace back for revenge? Or is Emily’s guilt driving her mad?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but the Harpies are about to find out just how much words can hurt you.

My Thoughts

When the time comes to reflect on 2020, on my list of good things, will be the incredible mysteries and thrillers that I have read. Usually, if I am a glutton and read too many in this genre, I inevitably start enjoying them less and less and need a book break. Not so this year as the skills of the authors I’ve read just keep delivering intriguing plots and characters and plenty of twists and turns.

Girl Gone Mad is mostly told by Emily Bennett. She is a therapist who works with troubled teenagers, and she is happy if she can make a difference in their lives. She knows what it is like to be a bully because she was a Harpy when she was in middle school. Mackenzie, Elise, Destiny, Courtney, Olivia, and Emily were the chosen six. Popular, privileged, and rotten to the core, they bullied their way through school….just because they could. Emily has never forgotten what they did to Grace Farmer, their last act of terror before the Harpies broke up. But as they used to say, “Once a Harpy, always a Harpy”, and maybe even fourteen years later, that is true.

When Emily’s mother tells her that Olivia is dead and that she should attend the funeral, Emily wants nothing to do with her past. She relents under her mother’s glare and attends the service with Courtney. When they learn Olivia killed herself under rather mysterious circumstances, and that Destiny is dead, by suicide, they wonder if Grace is finally having her revenge.

As the tension mounts chapter by chapter and more and more secrets are revealed, is it possible that Emily is losing her mind, or has her past caught up with her? It becomes increasingly difficult to separate the villains from the victims and the cat from the mouse. Yep, this is another fast-paced ride aboard the cray cray train, and the conclusion of this tale was unexpected and twisted. Kudos to the author for also exploring a devastating topic, bullying, while taking me on a wild ride.

I received a DRC from Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley.

The Coast-to-Coast Murders

Little,Brown and Company



There’s a killer on the road, and nobody is safe.

Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past. Both adopted, and now grown — Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology — they trust each other before anyone else. They’ve had to.

In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Hobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended –but then there’s another killing just like the one they’ve been investigating. And another. And not just in Los Angeles — the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators’ attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss — if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?

From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer — one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.

My Thoughts

Michael Fitzgerald is having a bad day. He knows it will be unpleasant when his neighbor calls. Mrs. Dowell is irate that water from Michael’s apartment is raining down from the ceiling. Michael didn’t leave any water running, so he assumes a pipe must have burst. Something entirely out of his control, but something that can be fixed.

Michael is shocked when he enters his apartment to not only find the faucets running, but also a woman he has never seen before, dead in his bathtub. What kind of a person breaks into someone’s apartment to vandalize and commit murder? The police investigation points only one way, straight to the killer, Michael.

There is only one person who Michael can trust, his sister Megan. Adopted by the Fitzgerald’s, the siblings understand what it is like to be raised by sick and twisted people. Who else but a sick person could have done such a thorough job framing Michael. It’s up to Michael and Megan to figure out what is going on before the death toll continues to rise. But is Michael truly a victim, or does his past hold the key to unlocking this puzzling tale?

Told from multiple POVs through short, fast-paced chapters, The Coast-to-Coast Murders takes us on a thrilling ride from California to New York. I didn’t know how this one would come together, and I was diligent about reading every line looking for clues. I ‘ve read all of James Patterson’s Alex Cross series, as well as all of J.D. Barker’s books, and didn’t know if this would have more Patterson or Barker vibes. My guess regarding the killer shifted more than once, and by the time I reached the end, let’s just say I had been incorrect all along.

I am not usually a reader of collaborations for reasons that are varied, but there was no way I would pass on this one. In other instances, I’ve found the authors’ writing styles just don’t mesh well together. In this case, it worked brilliantly! Having read that James Patterson is someone who outlines, and J.D. Barker does not, I can imagine that there were some compromises at play. However they accomplished it, they created some memorable characters, one mind-blowing plot, and a hard to put down read.

I received a DRC from Little, Brown and Company through NetGalley.

A Borrowed Life

Lake Union Publishing

US Publication – September 22, 2020



From the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Whisper Me This comes an emotional and sharply witty novel about how life’s unexpected detours can ultimately bring you home.

For twenty-six years Liz has perfectly played the part of Mrs. Thomas Lightsey, exemplary pastor’s wife and mother. But maintaining appearances for the congregation and catering to her demanding husband takes a toll, and she’s lost herself in meeting the expectations of others. When Thomas suddenly dies, Liz feels shock, grief, and, to her surprise, the siren song of freedom. Dare she dream of a life to call her own?

Despite the resistance of her daughter, Abigail, to even the smallest changes, Liz lands a role at the community theater. Inspired by new friends and the character she plays, she explores life’s possibilities, including an unexpected—and steamy—relationship with her leading man.

Just when Liz thinks she might be winning, life hits her with an unthinkable shock. She’s pregnant at forty-nine. Torn between conflicting loyalties to her daughter, her lover, her unborn baby, and herself, can Liz find a way to rebuild her dream life one more time?


My Thoughts

Life has beaten down Elizabeth Lightsey. Married to a pastor, her days and nights are a series of tasks deemed worthy of a pastor’s wife by her husband, Thomas. At another knitting club meeting, Elizabeth fears she will die of either boredom or incessant petty gossip. Then the unthinkable happens, a heart attack kills her husband and she is left with the remnants of a very unfulfilling life. The easiest and safest thing to do would be to stay the same, but Elizabeth wants more.

As Elizabeth tries to move forward, her adult daughter Abigail frowns at any change she tries to make. A new haircut, new clothes, and new theater friends only make Abigail more and more uncomfortable. But Elizabeth is slowing shedding the skin she wore for 26 years, and Liz is about to be born.

Liz has a second chance, but can she overcome the person she became and embrace the person she was meant to be? It is a lovely story full of regret about the past and hope for the future. This wasn’t a fast-paced page flipper, but rather a slow burn of a story that is filled with humor, love, and hope.

This is the first book I have read by Kerry Anne King and it won’t be the last.

I received a DRC from Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley.