The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

4 stars

Alicia Berenson is The Silent Patient at the center of this tragic story. After being sentenced to a mental institution for murdering her husband, the famous painter refuses to speak. Criminal psychologist Theo Faber gets a job at the institution where she works and takes on her case in an attempt to get her to break her six years of silence.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Although it is billed as a thriller, this is more of a traditional murder/suspense novel that pays tribute to the author’s Greek roots. A Greek tragedy by Euripides inspires the storyline, as does the author’s work in a secure physiatric unit and his love for Agatha Christie’s works.

“Love that doesn’t include honesty doesn’t deserve to be called love.”

Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient

I was instantly drawn in by the premise. I wanted answers to all the questions the book raises – Will Alicia speak again? What happened on that fateful night? Is she actually guilty?  

And although I sensed things weren’t as they appeared with some characters, I was surprised by the ending.

I listened to the audiobook, and the narrative story style lends itself well to the audiobook format. Both narrators were excellent, enhancing the listening experience. I suspect I wouldn’t have liked this book as much if I’d read the hard copy, which is rare for me to say since I typically prefer to consume fiction books in printed format.

Although this book wasn’t a life-changing five-star read for me, it was compelling and original. I would recommend it to others, and I will be looking forward to reading other works by Michaelides.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

4 stars

Rachel Krall has a crime podcast that aims to put listeners inside the jury box.

Fresh off a successful season, her podcast takes her to the small coastal town of Neopolis, NC, where an Olympic swim team hopeful has been accused of raping a 16 year old girl.

The book also weaves in the story of a young girl from the same town who died 20 years before. Her death was presumed to be an accidental drowning.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The stories were both heartbreaking and gripping. It was interesting how the stories were intertwined in the end. As a North Carolinian who grew up in a small town, I was intrigued by the setting. Goldin captured small town life well, with its gossip and long held allegiances.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than The Escape Room. The two books couldn’t have been more different. I cared more about the characters in The Night Swim.  I was completely invested in their lives and in the outcomes of the two cases.

I want to read another Megan Goldin book simply to see if it is different still – or similar to one of the two I’ve already read. I love it when an author can keep you guessing in multiple ways!

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett

Like a Sister was my first read by Kellye Garrett. I picked it up because it sounded the most interesting of the Book of the Month selections.

The title also grabbed me — I’ve always been drawn in by books that explore different types of sibling relationships.

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett

I’m glad I picked it up and gave it a chance. There was a lot to like in this novel. Lena, the main character, was funny and tenacious. I loved that she wouldn’t give up on finding out the truth about what happened to her estranged half-sister. I also appreciated the complex relationships Lena had with some of the other members of her family.

The comparisons Garrett made throughout the book were another highlight. I thought they were witty and gave the story a contemporary feel. I didn’t even mind all the “shitnuts” references – although I can truly say I’ve never heard one single person utter that phrase before!

The book did have a few drawbacks for me. It got a little hectic and rushed at the end. And, while I loved that it kept me guessing, there were one (or three) too many red herrings thrown in. 

Finally, there were a few times when the storyline got a teensy bit confusing and unrealistic to me – most of these scenes involved Erin’s character.

Ultimately, this is an entertaining read. Pick it up if you like stories that revolve around minor reality stars or plots that include a civilian investigator.

Heir of Blood and Secrets by Linda Xia

3 out of 5 stars

This dystopian YA murder mystery is told from the perspective of Scylla Delevan, a 16-year-old daughter of a magistrate in Devovea. Despite their difficult relationship, when Scylla’s father is accused of murder, she goes on a quest to prove his innocence. Her loyalties are challenged and she uncovers a number of secrets along the way.

This fast-moving story presents interesting views on fatherhood, and I was intrigued by the class system that was built into this book. The story also deals well with a somewhat naive teenage girl figuring out and standing up for what she believes and facing the repercussions of making rash decisions. 

The cover of Heir of Blood and Secrets
Heir of Blood and Secrets by Linda Xia

This story had a lot of strengths but there were a few parts that didn’t work as well for me. I felt there could have been more depth and dimension to some of the side characters. There were also a few points in the plot where I got slightly confused.

Overall, I appreciated the world Xia created, and look forward to reading what she writes next.

Thank you to the author for reaching out to me and providing a free e-review copy. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

3 out of 5 stars

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda.

I learned from reading All The Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger that Megan Miranda is a fantastic thriller writer.

I have probably read at least a hundred books since I read All The Missing Girls yet the story and the inventive structure still stand out. When my family gave me The Last House Guest for Mother’s Day, I could hardly wait to dive in.

This one was a little bit of a letdown for me. Don’t get me wrong – it was still a good page-turning thriller. It just didn’t meet the high bar Miranda set with her previous reads. 

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, The Last House Guest features some of the trademarks found in Miranda’s other thrillers – small-town secrets and complicated friendships between the female main characters. For me, I think the difference is that I struggled more to connect with the main characters in this one.

The pacing was slow for most of the book and the story lacked suspense for the first third. I needed more backstory to feel invested in Sadie. The relationships also felt disjointed. The friendship between Sadie and Avery, which was supposed to be a main thread in the story, didn’t ring true.

Even with these flaws, I am still glad I read The Last House Guest. In the end, it had enough twists to keep me guessing and provided a couple of days of summer reading entertainment. Such a Quiet Place is next on my TBR list by Megan Miranda.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

3 stars

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.

The Hunting Party is a character-driven murder mystery set in Loch Corrin, an exclusive hunting lodge in the Highlands of Scotland.  

The story primarily unfolds over the course of a 4-day trip a group of 8 pals from university takes to celebrate the New Year. While the focus is on the present day, flashbacks to the past give context to some of the relationships and the events that transpire during the trip.

Each chapter of this closed-room suspense novel is told from the perspective of one of the individuals at Loch Corrin. I listened to the audiobook, and with so many characters, it was hard to keep them straight at first. I did enjoy the accents of the various narrators, which provided some authenticity to the story. The descriptions of the setting also translated really well to the audiobook format.

“I suppose we all carry around different versions of ourselves.”

Lucy Foley, The Hunting Party

The story starts slowly and keeps its deliberate pacing until about two-thirds of the way through when it picks up speed and becomes much more interesting. 

Foley doesn’t reveal the identity of the victim or the murderer until very late in the book, and most of the main characters are unlikable. These familiar elements, combined with an eerie remote setting, make the storyline feel a bit like a rerun of The Guest List. 

Although the storyline was strikingly similar to The Guest List, I ended up liking it a bit more. I didn’t guess all of the twists, including the identity of the killer. There was also something slightly more relatable about some of the characters. 

I do hope Foley’s newest book, The Paris Apartment, mixes up the plot a bit. I definitely do not need to read this same basic storyline for the third time.

The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

4 stars

The cigarette smoking detective Kate Monroe is back on the scene, investigating a serial killer in this sequel to The Lamb. The book takes us right back to Barnsworth, where Monroe and Halifax are pulled back in with fresh murders, one of which might be the new girlfriend of Monroe’s ex-husband.

The Mother: A Detective Kate Monroe Crime Thriller displayed on an iPad.
The Mother by J.E. Clarkson

I adored that Clarkson included a glossary of characters in the front of the book. As someone who has read several books since reading the first installment in this series, I appreciated the refresher on the cast of characters. I was also glad to get an answer to a major item that the first book left unresolved.

Clarkson’s distinctive writing style is present in this fast-moving tale, which can be consumed in a single sitting or savored at a slower pace. Again, I was able to add a few new British colloquialisms to my vocabulary, which is always fun.

Reading this respectable follow-up to The Lamb reinforced my love for J.E. Clarkson as an author and for Kate Monroe as a character. I continue to be a dedicated Clarkson fan and intend to keep auto-buying all of her new releases.

My review of The Lamb: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2021/12/11/the-lamb-by-j-e-clarkson/

To read my reviews of all of J.E. Clarkson’s books, browse her category on my blog.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

3 stars

In this novel, Marie Benedict hypothesizes about what happened during Agatha Christie’s most famous unsolved mystery, her own 11-day disappearance. 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The book alternates between Agatha’s life when she first met and married Archie Christie and each day of her disappearance. In many ways, Archie Christie was the main character of this historical fiction work, and the portrait Benedict paints of Colonel Christie isn’t a flattering one. He comes across as demanding, domineering, and narcissistic, with all of Agatha’s actions centered on him.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after reading The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont. While the books cover the same time period, the two fictional accounts are very different. I’d give de Gramont an edge in the writing – her prose was more captivating than Benedict’s flatter style. 

However, de Gramont definitely took a lot more creative license in her story. Benedict’s account was much more believable and seemed much closer to what could have actually happened. 

Both portray Agatha as a strong, talented woman but in different ways. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie deals more with her relationship with her mother and sister, her affection for her daughter, and the pressure she felt to be the perfect wife. For most of the book, The Christie Affair portrays her as a colder, more career-oriented person who seems ambivalent toward her daughter.

My full review of The Christie Affair is linked below: https://bookpicksandpics.com/2022/04/03/the-christie-affair-by-nina-de-gramont/

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

4 stars

The cover of The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont.
The Christie Affair

I picked up The Christie Affair because it is my book club’s pick this month. A historical fiction work, the novel imagines what happened during Agatha Christie’s brief, unexplained disappearance. 

Told from the point of view of Nan O’Dea, Archie Christie’s mistress, the story opens with a glimpse into O’Dea’s past and jumps to the present, a few days before Agatha vanishes. The story alternates back and forth between the two time periods, weaving in a lot of grief, heartbreak, and intrigue along the way.

The author’s explanation behind why the famous author disappeared is both fascinating and moving, though some of the events seemed a little far-fetched. The lovely prose, shrewd observations about humans, and a surprising take on the relationship between Nan and Agatha helped me look past some of the implausible moments. 

“I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.”

The Christie Affair

One of the lines that resonated with me in the book was, “I hadn’t learned yet. In this world, it’s the obedient girls who are most in danger.” I think every woman wonders at some point whether following the rules is going to be her downfall in the end.

Overall, this was a pleasant, well-written read that has me wanting to learn more about Agatha Christie. In fact, I’ve started to read The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, which is Marie Benedict’s take on the unsolved mystery of Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance. It will be interesting to compare the two novels once I’ve finished.

Are you an Agatha Christie fan? Have you read either of these books attempting to explain her disappearance?

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

4 out of 5 stars

A paperback of The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish on a gray blanket with silver stars. A cloth tapestry bookmark is placed in the book.
The Other Passenger by
Louise Candlish

James “Jamie” Buckby and Clare, his wealthy partner of 10 years, start hanging out with a younger couple Kit Roper and his girlfriend, Melia. Kit and Jamie commute back and forth from work together on the ferry, and Clare and Melia know each other from working at the same real estate firm. 

On one of their last commutes home before the Christmas holiday, Jamie and Kit get in a heated argument. Kit doesn’t make it on the boat the next day. Police question Jamie as the last person who saw Kit before his disappearance, suggesting that an anonymous passenger tipped them off about the fight. 

Set in London, this commuter thriller starts slowly, takes several turns round the bend, and picks up speed as we reach our final destination. Although there were some expected tropes in this character driven crime drama, there were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. Generational divides and economic differences play an interesting role in the conflict. Envy over youth and money shape the choices that the characters make.

The writing is compelling and features the atmospheric language I’ve come to associate with Candlish. I like how Candlish subtly used song titles and bits of lyrics to help set the mood, and in some cases, foreshadow events to come. 

The book also weaves in some commentary on technology, noting that “privacy [is] a setting now, not a human right.” Jamie also makes an astute observation about smart phones: “What power these things have, as if words lit on a screen are more significant than those produced by the human voice.”

Overall, I thought The Other Passenger was worth the read. I will be adding Candlish to my list of must read authors.

My review of Louise Candlish’s newest book, The Heights, can be found here.