Book Review: Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson

Beneath the Marigolds photo

Beneath the Marigolds cover webTitle: Beneath the Marigolds
Author: Emily C. Whitson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: September 21, 2021
Publisher: CamCat Books


Synopsis

When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.

Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?

Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Beneath the Marigolds is a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.

Told in three parts, the story alternates between the points of view of Ann and Reese. Ann is heading to Phaux Island under the guise of finding love, but she’s really searching for Reese, her close friend who went missing a month earlier. Reese’s point of view scenes begin when she first came to the island, eager to find her soulmate.

There’s a distinct writing style change between the two heroines’ points of view, which made it incredibly easy to recognize whose chapter I was reading.  Reese is a flighty, immature-for-her-age, hopeless romantic, and her chapters read as such. Ann, on the other hand, is far more reserved. She’s a realist. She’s a lawyer, who, like her best friend, is unlucky in love. Her chapters have a far more analytical style, and even the way she views what’s happening at the retreat is coloured by her experiences and her profession. 

Both Reese and Ann are recovering alcoholics, and this is a theme throughout the novel. Because they’re at a romantic retreat, of course they’re constantly being tempted with alcohol, almost to the point where it seems like the people running the resort want them off the wagon. There’s something sinister going on, and Ann is determined to get to the bottom of it, not just so she can find her friend, but so she can get out of there unscathed. 

There are many exhilarating twists and turns in the plot. There were a few developments that sent me reeling, and then I was back to hungrily devouring the book. The final reveal was quite shocking, and it nicely wrapped up a cohesive and entertaining story.

Beneath the Marigolds photo

*Thank you to CamCat Books, Edelweiss, and the author for the ebook to review*

Five stars

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates

The Haunting of Leigh Harker book photo

The Haunting ofTitle: The Haunting of Leigh Harker
Author: Darcy Coates 
Genre: Horror, thriller
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press


Synopsis

Sometimes the dead reach back…

Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep.

Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined.

A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbours dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape.

Do you think you’re safe?

You’re wrong.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This novel gripped me with horror from the very first sentence. Coates combines metaphors and grotesque imagery in a way that immediately sets the reader on edge. 

The haunting of Leigh Harker is creepy in part because of its uniqueness. The strange occurrences that are happening in Leigh’s house are unlike your typical haunting. I can’t go into specifics without spoilers, but the way that the “something” that appears in her doorway looks and acts is all so peculiar, and because of that, there’s a fresh level of terror associated with it.

All this said, the terror grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s one horrifying scene after another, and there came a point where I became a little numb to it all. I started to notice not-so-minor plot holes. But then, there was the twist. 

I can’t say much about the twist without spoiling everything. But it’s a twist that simultaneously slowed the horror and added a new level of horror. The twist explained away the plot holes that I’d been rigorously making note of. A novel that was once just straight up chills and thrills without much depth beyond that became much more intriguing, the twist adding a layer of mystery to the plot.

Unfortunately, the very final twist wasn’t as good as the twist that happened fairly early on in the novel. It came somewhat out of left field, and wasn’t as well supported by the rest of the storyline. 

All this said, this is a creepy and beautifully written novel, worth reading for the immersive writing style and that first massive, jaw-dropping reveal that forced me to stay up all night reading until I reached the last page. 

The Haunting of Leigh Harker Book Photo

*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten

The Necklace book photo

The Necklace book cover

Title: The Necklace
Author: Matt Witten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing


Synopsis

The clock ticks down in a heart-pounding crusade for justice

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Necklace is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t be able to put down. The story is told from the point of view of Susan, a woman whose seven-year-old daughter was brutally murdered twenty years ago. We get two timelines–one set twenty years ago, when the horrible crime occurred. The second timeline is present day, when the man put behind bars for killing her child is just days away from being executed. Susan has scrounged up just enough money to travel to the execution. This is the day that she’s waited for for twenty years. She should be ecstatic. She should be happy to finally be getting the closure she craves. But a simple piece of evidence sends her reeling. Is it possible that the man who’s being executed in mere days is not guilty?

This story is incredibly fast paced. I could easily tell that the author is ordinarily a writer for TV. The writing style is very direct–with little flowery language or description to bog down the prose. I’m a fast reader, but I can say that any other reader would also be compelled to finish this in one sitting. The novel reads a little like a James Patterson novel–you can’t help but think “One more chapter!” and before you know it, you’re at the climax of the book and there’s no way you’re stopping now. Continue reading “Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten”

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family Plot book in front of true crime shelf

The Family Plot book coverTitle:The Family Plot
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books


Synopsis

When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Family Plot is an atmospheric psychological thriller perfect for fans of true crime and gothic mysteries. The Lighthouses live in a small town where the gossip mill never stops, and their strange habits never cease to fuel it. The entire family is obsessed with true crime. They have a shrine dedicated to the victims of infamous true crime cases. The children were homeschooled, but their education didn’t follow the state-sanctioned curriculum, and they spent most of their time learning about murder and death. 

The book opens when Dahlia (named after the Black Dahlia), returns home following her father’s sudden death. It’s her first time back in ten years. When she was a teenager, her twin brother went missing. He was presumed to be a runaway, and she’s never stopped looking for him. 

This book is rife with mystery and there are many twists in the plot. It’s clear the author is a murderino (not just because of the book’s dedication), as a lot of the book has a focus on the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of true crimes. Those of us who are familiar with the big cases will recognize a lot of the names that get thrown around, both in the dialogue and in the narrative. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins”