After leaving a California psychiatric prison, Sean Suh relocates to Austin, Texas, where he spends his days drawing people and their auras at a local Disneyland knockoff. A girl with a copper aura tempts him despite his understanding that he need protect her from himself. He witnesses her kidnapping, but no one believes him based on his mental health and conviction record, and suspicion falls more heavily on him as he conducts his own investigation. He learns interesting things about this girl he has immediately fallen for, but he could not have foreseen who did it. Heard brilliantly leads the reader through Sean’s emotional turmoil at each new piece of information; this could well be a manual for becoming a serial killer. Flashbacks from Annabelle’s point of view would have given her more depth. Being privy to Sean’s thoughts exposed his internal struggle, a fascinating insight that almost (but not quite) invokes compassion. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Gillian Flynn will appreciate this novel. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.
Life hasn’t gone as planned for Kim and Matthew—Matty—Savage, and their marriage comes to a screeching halt in their cabin in the woods, a world away from Kim’s vamp movie career and Matty’s screenwriting failures in LA. Matty shoving Kim into a glass cabinet with their daughter Rebecca—Bex—a witness demarcates the before and after. A decade later, Kim calls her ex-husband and estranged daughter to the cabin, where they are attacked by supernatural creatures they must fight metaphysically to survive.
The story opens with a sad, but realistic, portrayal of an unhealthy family dynamic. After the divorce, the couple and their daughter are ensconced in their own ugly realities. Enter speculative elements attacking dad and daughter at the family cabin, scary fairies from a book mom gave daughter, who relegated the horrifying Hungarian tome to the annual vacation cabin. All the characters are forced into their worst memories, opening up old wounds and creating opportunities to reconnect. This novel, despite its horror genre, is really about how family goes awry on a foundation of secrets and miscommunications. It turned out to be more substantial than expected, and the writing flows well.
I was fortunate to receive a copy of this delightful story through a Goodreads giveaway.
Erin’s fiancee loses his investment banking job just before they marry, causing ripples throughout the wedding planning due to his loss of income. They go ahead and hold the big wedding and go on their intended honeymoon in Tahiti, keeping their hopes up for his future employment. While scuba-diving on honeymoon, they discover a plane wreck in the ocean. A more experienced scuba diver, Erin’s new husband Mark retrieves a dufflebag of money from the wreckage. Despite good intentions, they end up smuggling it home where they begin an ongoing debate on what to do with it, even as they hide it in their home. Mark seeks opportunities while Erin continues her documentary on the before and after of three convicts released from prison: a young girl who turns to terrorism, a middle-aged woman who helped her terminally-ill mother die with dignity, and a professional criminal.
Every character is fully fleshed out, with complex motives and emotions, and behavioral integrity. Steadman skillfully leads the reader in a carefully laid out zig-zagging path, following Erin’s ever-shifting perspective with each new piece of information. She carefully weaves in Erin’s new-found colleagues, showing the balancing strategy of the average person faced with the chance to “get away with it,” as the possibilities of advantageous connections enable her to do just that while maintaining that she is a good person and “not a criminal.” The ending circles back to the opening, of Erin digging a grave for her husband, for a highly satisfying conclusion. I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher of this page-turner—a must-read for fans of psychological and crime thrillers.