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March 18, 2022

Two Twisty Thrillers That Will Keep You Awake

by MK French

Before we get to fluffy beach read season, there are some great twisty thrillers that you need to read. These books will keep you turning the pages and may keep you awake at night. 

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Sundial by Catriona Ward

book cover of domestic thriller Sundial by Catriona Ward
March 2022; Tor Nightfire; 978-1250812681
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); domestic thriller

Rob wanted a normal life with a husband and two girls, a home, and a storybook life. But her daughter Callie collects bones and reads about serial killers, and whispers to imaginary friends. Callie worries about her mother, who doesn't understand about the pale things, and starts looking at her strangely. They go deep into the Mojave desert to unlock the past in order to figure out a future.

Rob is sure Irving is cheating on her, so from page one, I didn't like him. It's a consequence of my personal squick about cheating in stories, but the way he's otherwise described at the start doesn't make him look good either. They don't have a healthy relationship, yelling at each other, moments of domestic violence, his drinking, and cheating as Rob strives for ordinary suburbia. On top of that, Callie is the odd child, with a volatile temper and love of the macabre. Then it escalates, setting off the journey to Sundial, the creepy house where Rob grew up.

Like other Catriona Ward books, what we think the story is about really isn't. We get a version of the past that Rob knows, and something about the present that both she and Callie know. We think we know who Pale Callie is compared to Warm Callie as the story progresses, and the truth about Rob and Jack. But buried within the story are other stories, from the ones that Rob writes about Arrowood, the memories she has of her childhood, and the things that Callie sees in her parents. I was dragged into this book, body and soul, and my heart goes out to the characters at the end. The sundial that gave the property and the book its name is a clock that uses people as the signpost to tell time, and it's people that give direction here. I wish them the best of luck going forward; they're going to need it.

Buy Sundial at Amazon

Ashes in Venice by Gojan Nikolich

book cover of psychological thriller Ashes in Venice by Gojan Nikolich
March 2022; Black Rose Writing; 978-1684338917
ebook, print (293 pages); psychological thriller

Frank Savic is a Las Vegas homicide detective and blackjack addict deeply in debt, facing family problems as he approaches his retirement. He's asked to postpone that retirement to investigate a killer who murders other murderers. On top of that, a grieving mother begs Frank for help getting justice for her dead son. Frank's investigation is complicated by a probable FBI coverup, prison bribery, and the possibility that the killer might be the solution to his own problems.

Just a warning, this is a psychological thriller with grisly murders and spiders that are part of the repertoire. We don't see them in the beginning; chapter one opens with Colt injecting his victim and lecturing him, with the actual killing done offscreen, so to speak. Later on, the grisly remains are found, touching off the investigation. The family problem mentioned in the summary is that Frank's wife Maria has dementia and is in a memory care facility. Those are expensive and don't always have attentive staff, and his gambling habit sunk him further into debt. Her behavior and the contrast to her past is so sad, as is Frank's commentary on technology and the Las Vegas he once knew.

Almost in spite of myself, I was drawn to the story. These are child killers that got away on a technicality, and the terrible crimes had never been brought to justice. Colt going after them is sort of achieving that, and about two-thirds of the way through we start to get an idea why he's involved. I kept reading to see what would happen next, if Frank and Colt would be at odds and cross paths, and if Frank would solve the mystery in time. The ending is an interesting one and satisfying in its own way. Whether you believe it's justice or vengeance, it's fitting to the story.

Buy Ashes in Venice at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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