THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★¾


In THE SAFE PLACE, main character Emily’s life is a wreck. She’s broke, unemployed, and days away from being kicked out of her apartment. So when Scott, her former boss, offers her a position as caretaker at his estate in the South of France, she simply can’t say no.

In theory, the job sounds like paradise, but in reality, Emily finds things a bit off. Scott’s odd wife and child live there permanently, isolated, and with strange rules for Emily to follow. No internet! Emily is soon convinced that something isn’t right with this seemingly perfect family…

This was a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller, set in a gorgeous, summery location. Poor Emily! She was so naïve, but I suppose she had to be for the set up of the story to happen. Her gullibility did frustrate me though, especially towards the end. The author created a good amount of tension as the story progressed, and I was surprised when the final big twist was revealed. I was convinced things were going in a different direction!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

IN ANOTHER LIGHT by A. J. Banner

The death of a look-alike stranger leads a grieving woman down a troubling path in this riveting novel by A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Poison Garden.

Three years ago mortuary cosmetologist Phoebe Glassman lost her husband in a tragic accident. No longer the hopeful wife and mother she once was, Phoebe is disappearing into her grief and into the quietude of her job — restoring to the dead the illusion of life. Then the body of a woman named Pauline Steele arrives in the mortuary, and for Phoebe, everything changes.

Pauline is unmistakably Phoebe’s mirror image and bears an alarmingly familiar tattoo. Even more startling is that among Pauline’s effects is a faded photograph of Phoebe. Aided by an eccentric colleague, her curiosity sparked, Phoebe investigates her doppelgänger’s life and death — and uncovers surprising clues to a shared past.

Phoebe’s emotional journey soon leads to shocking revelations about those closest to her…and even herself. When she’s driven to the brink, how much of what she discovers can she trust?

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★

What first drew me to this book was protagonist Phoebe Glassman’s job as a mortuary cosmetologist, someone who makes the decedent (new word for me!) look how they did in life. That’s something I could NOT do, but I find it fascinating. The funeral home where Phoebe works specializes in “green burials,” the eco-friendly alternative to traditional cemeteries, which is something else I’d recently discovered. Again, fascinating!

When the body of a woman looking exactly like Phoebe arrives at the mortuary, she ends up down a rabbit hole investigating this identical stranger’s past. This book is also about the heavy burden of her grief from losing her husband and daughter a few years earlier. IN ANOTHER LIGHT is a suspenseful mystery and journey of coming to terms with the past. It’s a very quick, engrossing, and emotional read.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE by Riley Sager

The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: June 21, 2022
Source: Borrowed from the library

★★★

This book made me think of The Woman in the Window and the Kristen Bell thriller parody on Netflix. The protagonist in Riley Sager’s latest is an alcoholic woman spying on her neighbors. The wife goes missing, and she decides to investigate.

I’m keeping this as vague as possible. There are a few fantastic twists in this book, but one of the big ones I had figured out very early on, then I was annoyed with myself for ruining the surprise. Ha.

I thought the pacing was a bit slow during the first half or so, then things got kind of wacky. THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE was entertaining for the most part, but it was no HOME BEFORE DARK. That one scared the crap out of me, and I loved every minute.

Do you have a Riley Sager favorite?

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L. R. Dorn

For fans of riveting true crime docuseries a la Serial and Making a Murderer, The Anatomy of Desire is a modern tale of crime and punishment exploring unbridled ambition, blinding passion, and the dark side of desire

Ambition. Passion. Betrayal. Murder?

Claire Griffith has it all, a thriving career, a gorgeous boyfriend, glamorous friends. She always knew she was destined for more than the life her conservative parents preached to her. Arriving in Los Angeles flat broke, she has risen to become a popular fitness coach and social media influencer. Having rebranded herself as Cleo Ray, she stands at the threshold of realizing her biggest dreams.

One summer day, Cleo and a woman named Beck Alden set off in a canoe on a serene mountain lake. An hour later, Beck is found dead in the water and Cleo is missing. Authorities suspect foul play, and news of Cleo’s involvement goes viral. Who was Beck? An infatuated follower? Were she and Cleo friends or lovers? Was Beck’s death an accident…or murder?

Told in the form of an immersive investigative docuseries, L. R. Dorn’s brilliant reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s classic crime drama, An American Tragedy, captures the urgency and poignance of the original and rekindles it as a very contemporary and utterly mesmerizing page-turner that will keep you guessing. Did she or didn’t she?

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

After reading the blurb, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It tells the story of the Cleo Ray murder trial, with Cleo being a popular fitness “influencer” on social media accused of killing her girlfriend.

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE is like a true crime podcast/documentary, and I knew after seeing the format of interview transcripts that I should switch to audiobook. The audio was so well done! Even with 14 different narrators, it wasn’t difficult to tell the many characters apart. The performances made the characters seem very real.

A large part of this book is the courtroom drama and ensuing social media circus. Though not usually my thing, I found Cleo’s trial quite fascinating. I kept going back and forth over whether I thought she was innocent or guilty as the trial progressed. The ending took me by surprise, for sure. Recommended to fans of unique and thought-provoking mysteries.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.