ONE STEP BEHIND by Lauren North


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★½


A woman pushed to the breaking point by a stalker develops an obsession of her own in this shocking new novel of psychological suspense from the acclaimed author of The Perfect Son.

Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker. Frightening “gifts” are left on her doorstep, her home is broken in to, and when she leaves her house to take her children to school, he’s waiting. She feels powerless, and the police are unable to help.

Then her stalker is brought into the emergency room after a terrible accident, and Jenna has to treat the man who’s been tormenting her for months. With her stalker in a coma, Jenna is desperate to understand the life of this seemingly normal man. When she finds startling images on his phone, she is consumed by her need for answers–and her own obsession leads her down a twisting path of destruction.

Just how far is Jenna willing to go to take back control of her life?


ONE STEP BEHIND presents an intriguing and difficult dilemma for main character Jenna, a mom, ER doctor, and victim of a relentless stalker. After a year of receiving threatening messages and disturbing “gifts,” Jenna is at the breaking point. The police have made no progress in the case, and Jenna fears for herself and family. Then one day her stalker is wheeled into the emergency room near death after an accident. Now that she has control over his life, how far is she willing to go?

This book is a fast-paced and tense domestic thriller that shows what can happen when someone is threatened and put under mental stress for so long. Jenna’s behavior gets a bit wacky as she investigates her stalker, but I can’t say I blame her. I enjoyed how Jenna’s chapters are written in second person, with the “you” she’s talking to being her stalker.

The author crafted several red herrings and suspicious characters that kept me guessing. I thought the alternating chapters with another character, particularly the backstory, dragged a bit. Another quibble I had was that I thought the final twist, the “reasoning” behind the stalking, was a bit unbelievable. Still, it was an intense ending to wrap up the story. Recommend to readers who would enjoy a cat-and-mouse mystery.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ONE BY ONE by Ruth Ware


Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★½


The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?


Ruth Ware gives a modern twist to a classic Christie-inspired mystery in her latest thriller, ONE BY ONE. Executives of a hot up and coming tech firm called Snoop head to a remote chalet high in the Alps for a company retreat. This dream getaway of skiing, great food, and breathtaking views takes a tragic turn when an avalanche hits, trapping their party in a half-buried chalet. Their situation becomes more terrifying when guests disappear or are found dead, picked off one by one. But who among them is the killer?

This was an exciting and fast-paced thriller told in the alternating POVs of two women, Erin, a chalet employee and Liz, a guest and Snoop shareholder. I really enjoyed the chilling atmosphere of the desolate mountain after the avalanche, with those left at the chalet cut off from the rest of the world without power or WiFi, and killer on the loose.

Though there were only two narrators, there was still a large cast of characters to keep track of, and I did find myself flipping back to the beginning where each person was introduced on the “About Us” page of Snoop’s website to refresh my memory. I did love how the book also began with a news report of the tragedy, and we’re left to wonder who are the dead and who survived the “house of horror” mentioned.

ONE BY ONE is another fantastic whodunit from one of my favorite suspense authors. I’m already eagerly awaiting her next!

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Vintage Gothic Romance: ALWAYS IN AUGUST by Ann Head


Publisher: Signet
Release Date: August 1974
Rating: ★★★★★


PASSION AND HATE,
JEALOUSY AND VENGEANCE,
WERE HIDDEN BEHIND THE GREAT WALLED ESTATE OF MENLO…

It was August again, and Gloria was returning to Menlo. Gloria, with her stunning beauty and vast wealth, who hungered for everything that belonged to Lucy – even Lucy’s husband. Lucy could only wait in dread of what menace Gloria would unleash in this place of haunting beauty and mounting terror – of what evil she would bring to Lucy’s life and to the man Lucy loved and knew she could not hold.


“It was August again. And as always in August tempers are frayed, nerve ends laid bare by the heat.”

ALWAYS IN AUGUST is a Gothic Romance originally published in 1961. The story seems to take place around the time it was written, probably late 1950s, in the small coastal town of Royal Bay, South Carolina.

Lucy and Gloria were childhood friends, for a while. Gloria grew into a fiery and gorgeous young woman, while Lucy, though lovely, was level-headed and down to earth. Lucy had also been lifelong friends with the heir to Menlo Estate, a boy named Stark.

It was thought by all that Lucy and Stark would marry, until ruthless Gloria set her sights on him, and she always got what she wanted, especially if it was Lucy’s first. After tragedy strikes and Gloria flees Royal Bay, Lucy falls in love with another.

“The bad things always happen in August. Whatever potential evil sleeps here, beneath the easy, gentle surface of our days, is nourished, brought to fruit in the heavy, fetid August air.”

So, in August, years later, Gloria returns to Menlo, this time with the intention of stealing Lucy’s husband. But Lucy knows the tragic secrets hidden within the grand estate, and she’s not giving up without a fight.

I loved this book. The characters were well-crafted and memorable. Gloria was the perfect devious villain, while Lucy was easy to empathize with. You may or may not agree with her decisions, but I believe she did what she thought was best. The blurb makes the book sound so scary (menace! terror! evil!), but in reality ALWAYS IN AUGUST is a dramatic & gripping domestic suspense.

I read the 99¢ Kindle edition, which unfortunately is full of typos. I’m going to keep an eye out for an old paperback copy to add to my collection. (And, yay! I finished this review on the last day of August.)

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

THE NIGHT SWIM by Megan Goldin


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlen Coben) The Escape Room, a true crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.

Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name ― and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation ― but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered ― and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases ― and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?


Wow, this was a tough book to read, yet it was very well written. The author’s previous novel, THE ESCAPE ROOM, was an fun, entertaining thriller, while THE NIGHT SWIM was a different type of novel altogether. It’s a slow-burn dark mystery that tackles some very heavy, timely subject matter ― rape & rape culture.

True-crime podcaster Rachel Krall has come to Neapolis to cover the trial of a young man accused of rape. When someone starts leaving notes asking for her help, Rachel discovers that the drowning death of a local teenager 25 years earlier may be tied to the current case so many disturbing secrets buried in this small town.

The story is told through podcast transcripts, mysterious letters, and Rachel’s POV as she investigates the crimes of the present and the past. Rachel was a brave, clever, and determined character, and I liked hearing her take on the trial through the podcast.

NIGHT SWIM is more of a fictionalized true-crime story rather than a thriller. Given the nature of the book’s subject matter, I can say that I appreciated it rather than enjoyed. Poignant & thought-provoking. I’m very curious to see where Megan Goldin takes readers next.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS by Lisa Jewell


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.


THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS is a creepy and atmospheric domestic thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. When Libby turns 25, she inherits a grand home left to her by her deceased parents, whom she did not know the identity of until now. Libby is about to learn the dark and disturbing history of the family’s house as well.

Twenty-five years earlier, three individuals died mysteriously within its walls, and the children living there disappeared. The timeline moves back and forth between past and present as three characters tell the story of 16 Cheyne Walk. Yet, how are they connected? It wasn’t easy putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but fun to try. Such a web of dark secrets.

Lisa Jewell has written another fantastic thriller that grabs you with complex characters and chilling suspense. Highly recommended.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.