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 IT GIRL by Ruth Ware

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “claustrophobic spine-tingler” (People) One by One returns with an unputdownable mystery following a woman on the search for answers a decade after her friend’s murder.

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends — Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily — during their first term. By the end of the second, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

“The Agatha Christie of our generation” (David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author) proves once again that she is “as ingenious and indefatigable as the Queen of Crime” (The Washington Post) with this propulsive murder mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

★★★★

Ruth Ware’s latest novel is an engrossing dark academia mystery that centers around the murder of Oxford “it” girl April Coutts-Cliveden. Hannah Jones became BFFs with the wealthy, clever, and sometimes cruel April, after they’re paired as roommates freshman year. But, before the school year ends, April is dead, and a creepy porter will be convicted of the crime based on Hannah’s eyewitness testimony.

Fast forward a decade, and Hannah is still haunted by April’s death, in part because the porter has died in prison, maintaining his innocence until the end. Then a journalist contacts her, claiming that new evidence suggests the police got the wrong guy. Hannah’s life is once again in turmoil. If it wasn’t the porter, then who killed April?

I enjoyed this slow burn whodunit that showcases Ruth Ware’s talent for weaving a twisty story. Though unique from her other books, I would say THE IT GIRL’s atmosphere is closest to THE LYING GAME (less drama though). Not exactly Gothic or thriller, but suspenseful and keeps you guessing. Lots of red herrings and possible suspects had me changing my mind often, and I was shocked when the truth was revealed! I’ll be buying a copy for my keeper shelf!

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

THE DEAD ROMANTICS by Ashley Poston

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem — after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead…but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

What a sweet (and bittersweet) story! I’m usually a hard sell when it comes to rom-coms, but this one I could not resist, with a ghostwriter haunted by her handsome editor’s ghost, and a quirky small town funeral parlor setting. I wasn’t sure how a phantom love interest would work, but it did.

THE DEAD ROMANTICS is a funny, unique, sad at times, and emotional romance/family drama. I loved how the book handled grief and forgiveness as the main character dealt with the death of her father. The pacing was a bit slow in the middle, but the ending was twisty and wonderful. Recommended to fans of rom-coms that will pull at your heartstrings.

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

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.