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December 23, 2019

8 Thrillers to Keep You Up Too Late

by Susan Roberts


I love to read a good thriller that keeps me guessing until the end. Here are 8 novels with roller-coaster plots that may keep you up past your bedtime.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Where She Went by Kelly Simmons

Where She Went
Oct. 2019; Sourcebooks Landmark; 978-1492687504
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); psychological thriller
"Her only daughter has just gone away to college, and Maggie O’Farrell knows she’s turning into one of those helicopter parents she used to mock" (p1)

A mother's worst nightmare is for her child to disappear.  In this case, the child is an 18-year-old girl who has recently started college.  The story is tense and I thought it was a real page-turner - I was anxious to find out if the daughter was found and where she'd been.  There were lots of clues that lead you in the wrong direction which made the ending even more interesting.

When Maggie's daughter Emma goes away to college, Maggie is very worried about her.  In the last year, her husband (Emma's father) had been killed in the line of duty when he was with his partner who was also his mistress on police business.  So the last year hasn't gone well for Maggie and she is looking at everything negatively and is sure that something will happen to Emma when she leaves home for college life.  The novel is told by Maggie after Emma goes missing and by Emma before she went missing to show how she got from being a college student to where she ended up (can't tell you any more than that without spoiling it.)  When Maggie finds out that Emma is missing, she goes into full-scale mama bear mode.  She wants answers and she wants them now.  She tries to tell the police what to do and when they won't follow her suggestions, she does things on her own.  The more she finds out about Emma's life at college, the more worried she gets.  All of Emma's clothes are gone but her cell phone is still in her dresser.  And the more worried she gets, the more demanding and difficult she is for the police to handle.  Even though they had been very close, Emma started keeping secrets from her mother when she went away to college which makes finding Emma even more difficult.

This is a taut well-written book about a missing child and about the changes that happen in a parental relationship between a mother and a daughter as they grow up.  Overall it's a story about love and how far a mother will go to protect her child.

Buy Where She Went at Amazon

The Patient by Steena Holmes

The Patient
Oct. 2019; Lake Union Publishing; 978-1542040389
audio, ebook, print (319 pages); domestic thriller
"How do I admit this?  Disclose that I've held this secret out of fear?  I think about the words I need to say, unsure that I can voice them.  Admit my shame, my failures, my...suspicions.
I take a deep breath and try again.
'I think one of my patients is a serial killer, I just don't know which one.'" (loc 71)

WARNING:  Be sure to have your calendar clear and have no plans other than reading when you open this book.  I planned to read just a few chapters one morning...and I didn't put it down again until near midnight when I finished it.  There was no cooking or cleaning at my house that day.  I just had to get to the end -- and the ending was a real surprise that I didn't see coming.

I can't go into detail in this review because I don't want to give away the plot and ruin it for you.  What I can tell you is that this is a fantastic roller coaster of a read with lots of twists and turns.

Danielle Rycroft is a therapist, new to her small town of Cheshire - a town with statues in the park of characters from Alice in Wonderland. Danielle has 2 good friends who really try to take care of her and 3 patients. Someone in Cheshire is trying to protect children by killing parents and allowing the child to live. After therapy sessions with her three patients, Danielle is convinced that one of them is the serial killer but has no idea which one it is. With the clues that are given, it could be any of the three patients - they are all concerned with protecting children at any cost. Eventually, the stress and worry about her patients, along with lack of sleep and debilitating headaches send Danielle to find her own therapist. I must admit that at different times in the book, I was sure that I knew who the killer was only to get more hints a few pages later and realize that I was wrong. The ending was shocking but very satisfying.

I have read all of Steena's books and this one is a step in a different direction. She is totally successful in writing a different kind of book which shows me that she is indeed a fantastic writer. I look forward to her future books.

Buy The Patient at Amazon

The Puzzle of You by Leah Mercer

The Puzzle of You
Nov. 2019; Lake Union Publishing; 978-1503959804
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); British Lit
"There's no right or wrong way to be a mum.  You need to do what you think is best for your family ... and for you.  You may have a child- a child who had a difficult start - but you are still a person in your own right." (p 177)

Charlotte and her husband David are living the good life.  They are deeply in love, they have a perfect London flat that she has spared no cost to decorate, they can travel when they want to and she has a job that she loves and is very successful at.  Their life as a couple is perfect.  As the novel begins, Charlotte is in a car accident and wakes up in the hospital with David next to her.  She is so happy to see him but she wants to get back to their flat and she wants to go back to work.  Suddenly she realizes that there is a three-year-old girl calling her 'Mum".  Who is this child and where did she come from?  Charlotte soon realizes that she has lost 4 years of her life - she doesn't remember getting pregnant or having her daughter...she only knows that she wants her old life back again.  The story is told in past and present - Charlotte shows how happy she was in her job and her life in the past while lamenting her current life with a child who wants to play and hug and...be a child.  Charlotte and David are estranged so she doesn't have him to help her overcome her memory loss or to show her how to treat a child.  Will Charlotte get her memory back or will she have to learn to function in her new life?

This is a story about love and marriage, children and working moms who are consumed with guilt and finding happiness no matter where you are in your life.

The premise of the book was good but I didn't really like the main characters.  Charlotte was a spoiled person who couldn't cope with the problems of life and David was very wishy-washy and should have explained things to her instead of pouting and avoiding her.  Still, it was an interesting book and  I will read other books by this author.

Buy The Puzzle of You at Amazon

Why She Lied by Julie Coons

Why She Lied
February 2019; 978-1797907499
ebook, print (183 pages); domestic thriller
"This place is a war zone sometimes.  The sounds are indescribable.  They can penetrate deep inside your mind and last forever.  The cry of a mother when she is told her child didn't make it.  It's a shocking sound to hear and impossible to replicate.  I've never heard anything like it.  I'm seeing things I was never meant to see.  I work as an admitting clerk in the busiest trauma center on the West Coast."  (p 1)

Julie lives a quiet life with her young daughter and works as an admitting clerk in the trauma center of a large hospital. She really wasn't interested in dating again but when a patient's son kept asking her to go out on a date, her friends in the ED encouraged her to go. Her gut feeling was not to go on a date but she relented since her friends thought he was so wonderful. Turns out she should have listened to her gut feeling.

Julie is very reluctant to date James. She is a single mother with no help from her ex, she was abused as a child and raped in college - no wonder she is reluctant to start a relationship with a new man. She began dating him and even though she had fun, she never really got over the feeling that there was something not quite right with him. On the day she was going to tell him that she was pregnant with his baby he confessed to her that he was going on trial the next day for child molestation. She checks with all the legal people she knows and finds out that he will have access to the baby even if he is found guilty. To make sure that doesn't happen, she has an abortion.

Five years later when she is finally getting her life back to normal, she finds out that he was and still is involved in human trafficking. I can't say much about that as I don't want to give away important parts of the plot but she begins to work with the police to help them track down James who is now the most wanted person in the country. As she helps the police, her own life is endangered and she finds out secrets about her past.

This is a book with a lot of gripping psychological mystery, intrigue, and buried secrets. According to the author, it's based on a true story. The plot in the book is well done but the writing needs to be polished. The author claims to be a storyteller instead of an author. She tells a great story but it could have been better with smoother writing.

Overall, this was a book that I really couldn't put down despite the subject matter.

Note: If you are sensitive to violence, abuse, rape, molestation, abortion, and sex trafficking, this may not be the book for you.

Buy Why She Lied at Amazon

Too Close by Natalie Daniels

Too Close
July 2019; HarperCollins; 978-0062917485
audio, ebook, print (320 pages)
psychological thriller
"For many years, I would remember that day as a fine example of how we must not trust our first impressions...Because the truth was, just at the beginning of it all, I felt an inexplicable and powerful aversion to her, like a tug from the wings, as if  I were receiving a warning signal from the great puppet master."  (p 3)

I absolutely loved this debut novel by Natalie Daniels.  It's a real page-turner with an ending that is surprising.  It's one of the few books that I've read recently that kept me up way past bedtime but I just had to know how it would end.

There are two main characters and they have alternating chapters.  The timeline jumps around from present-day to 6 years earlier but it wasn't difficult to follow the change in narrators or the change in time period.

At the beginning, Connie was married with two small children and a stressful job. She didn't get to spend as much time with her family as she wanted to but everything was working out. One day at the park she met Ness, a new neighbor with a daughter the same age as Connie's. They became best friends and confided all of their secrets to each other.  A few chapters later, Connie woke up in a psychiatric hospital.  She was battered and bruised and her hair was falling out AND she had no idea why she was there or how long she'd been there.  She was told that she'd committed a horrific crime and the media was referring to her as the Yummy Monster but she has no memory of a crime. Her psychiatrist, Emma, is a dedicated forensic psychiatrist whose job was to determine if Connie was able to stand trial for her crime.  With Emma's help, she slowly starts to remember her life before she woke up in the hospital. Some people think that Connie is fooling everyone by acting like she doesn't remember but Emma decides that she has dissociative amnesia and really can't remember what happened.  As Connie and Emma spend more time together, they begin to develop a strong friendship and tells she tells  Connie things about her life that shouldn't have been discussed between the two of them.  Will their growing relationship help or hurt Connie's recovery?

The story alternates between the two women both before and after Connie's breakdown.  Will it be dangerous to them if they get too close to each other? This is a page-turner of a novel about friendship and mental illness and forgiveness not only of others but also forgiving yourself.  It was hard to believe that this was a debut novel and I will be watching for this author's next book.

Buy Too Close at Amazon

I Know You by Erik Therme

I Know You
April 2019; Bookouture;  978-1786819246
audio, ebook, print (206 pages)
psychological thriller
Bree and Alissa and Tyler have a rough life. They live in a dilapidated trailer with their mom who works two jobs to keep food on the table. Their abusive father only shows up to cause trouble. Bree, as the oldest, has tried to take care of her sister and brother but hasn't been very successful. After a long day at work, 22-year-old Bree goes home to find that her 16-year-old sister Alissa has been kidnapped and she doesn't even know where to start looking. She asks for help from her father and her brother but she just finds more questions and more family secrets.

It soon becomes clear that the person behind the kidnapping knows a lot about the dark truths within the Walker family and will go to any lengths to get revenge. And as the search for Alissa continues, Bree discovers something about her brother Tyler that she wishes she hadn’t, a dangerous secret, which is also the key to bringing her little sister back home.

This book is a real page-turner as Bree tries everything to find the sister she feels responsible for. She takes a lot of risks but is determined that she will find Alissa. I admired Bree for being a strong character and for her devotion to her family. I did have a problem because some of the risks she took to find her sister were pretty implausible and reckless.

If you are in the mood for a quick read that will keep you turning pages, this is the book for you.

Buy I Know You at Amazon

Raven Lane by Amber Cowie

Raven Lane
November 2019; Lake Union Publishing
978-1542003728
audio, ebook, print (288 pages)
psychological thriller
"But mimicry is an art I know well.  Not everyone is what they appear to be.  We all play roles, don't we...On Raven Lane, she was the perfect neighbor, the successful chef and the loving wife and mother, but it seemed as if Torn could see the person she thought she had hidden nearly twenty years ago,"  (LOC 724)

The truth can bring out the worst in the best of friends.

Raven Lane is a delightful domestic suspense novel.  I haven't read any other books by Amber Cowie, but I think it's time to get them on order.  This is a book about family and friendship and how hiding our past can have ramifications on our present.  The deep dark secret is slowly unraveled which made it a book that was difficult to put down.

Raven Lane is a cul-de-sac in a town in the Pacific Northwest with five detached homes arranged in a U shape, tucked into an area just two blocks away from one of the busiest commercial areas.  It's a very exclusive area and the real estate agent who sold all of the houses and lives there herself only sold to select people - actors, models, writers.  All of the neighbors were very friendly with each other and had parties on a regular basis.

The main characters are Esme, a former Hollywood actress who is hiding a secret that still affects her life and is now the owner and chef at a very popular restaurant,  her husband Benedict, a former model who now runs a modeling agency and their daughter who is in high school. As the novel begins, Esme and Benedict appear to be a very happy and loving couple. Things quickly change when Benedict runs over a neighbor and kills him when he is backing out of the driveway.  When the police show up, they determine that a crime has been committed and lock Benedict up in jail. The story is told by Esme and it switches from her past to present-day on Raven Lane.

In the beginning, the people who lived on Raven Lane all appeared to be best friends who loved to spend time with each other.  After the accident, Esme and Benedict learned who their real friends were as some of their neighbors turned against them.  As the skeletons in the closet came to light, they had even more friends turn their backs on them. When the mask of civility slips, can friends and neighbors recover from seeing the monstrous truths beneath?

This was a very interesting look at friends and how much we really know about them and what we keep hidden from other people. My biggest disappointment in this book is that I didn't like any of the characters. I liked Esme and Benedict at first but the more I learned about them, the less I liked them.  I know if I lived on Raven Lane, I would sell my house immediately after one of those parties - even if I had to take a loss on the price.

Overall, it's an interesting book about family and friends and lots and lots of secrets.

Buy Raven Lane at Amazon

A Predator and a Psychopath by Jay Kerk

A Predator and a Psychopath
August 2019; 978-1689959186
ebook, print (280 pages); thriller
"Many forms of mental illness can cause a break from reality.  The disease doesn't matter, what matters is the result of a disruption in a person's perception of reality.  However, if this disruption continues, we then search for the root cause." (loc 205)

Note: this novel can be very disturbing. The following are part of the story:  pedophilia, abuse, incest, rape, stalking, invasion of privacy, and sexual activity.  If any of these are a trigger for you, do not read this book.

I'll tell you right from the top that this book disturbed me on many levels.  It was dark and violent and just plain creepy.  Some of the reviews are very good and if you like this type of suspense novel, don't rely on my review but read some of the five-star reviews and then make your decision.

There are two main characters in this book

Jason is in a mental hospital with no memory of the last several months.  He thinks he has a wife and two children but is accused of killing his wife, who killed their daughter - his son is still missing.

Jerry is a pedophile and he spends his time stalking and raping underage girls. He installs hidden cameras into houses to watch the girls.  He is a terrible person.

What happens when the lives of these two people intersect??

Buy A Predator and a Psychopath at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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