Mystery and thriller

Mystery and thriller book reviews

A Cruel Twist of Fate by H. F. Askwith

Helena, a humble sweetmaker’s life is about to fall apart as her mother prepares to go to debtor prison. To help, she secures a job as a governess at the mysterious Archfall Manor, a secretive isle estate famed for its celebrated inventors, the Caudwell family. Hoping to restore her own family’s fortunes, she also seeks answers to their misfortunes caused by the family on the island, many years ago.

A Cruel Twist of Fate focuses on Helena, a sweetmaker desperate to save her mother from debtor prison.

In a brazen attempt to restore her family’s fortunes, Helena deceptively applies to be a governess at Archfall Manor, the infamous home of the secretive Caudwell family.

The collection of inventors who live on the isolated isle have many a sinister rumour shrouding them and Helena, quickly becomes ensnared by them.

She works swiftly and secretly, trying to solve the mystery of her own father’s disappearance at the manor in her infancy.

However, as people start to get hurt, she must act quickly to discover the culprit. For her own and the entire household’s safety.

Thrown into the depths of secrets and betrayal

The Gothic mystery thriller has a good pacing and the remote setting is wonderfully sinister. Its beautifully descriptive writing adds to the uneasy feeling of the landscape and characters.

I particularly liked the way H. F. Askwith developed Helena as the protagonist. She is a vivacious and intelligent character who is relentless in her search for truth and justice.

The other mostly eccentric characters are difficult to read, progressing the story and its mystery fantastically. You’ll feel a step ahead, just to be pulled in another direction.

Although fascinating, I do wish the ending had been fleshed out a little more as I didn’t feel fully satisfied with the closure.

Overall, a fabulous read full of twists and turns with a well-developed female lead. It’s certainly worth a read in 2024.

A Cruel Twist of Fate by H. F. Askwith was released on January 18 2024 via PENGUIN.

I personally have read A Cruel Twist of Fate. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Glennmare Girls by Anya Mora

The Glennmare Girls by Anya Mora

Popular Kitty is missing and a teacher has been injured on campus and cannot recall what happened to him.

In a strange rural elite boarding school, detectives, teachers and Kitty’s friends try to unpick the happenings of that night. What happened to Kitty and what is everyone else hiding?

Located on an island close to Seattle, Glennmare Academy is a strange place for unruly young women of affluent East Coast families that is stringent with its no-technology teaching.

The young women who attend are isolated. They immerse themselves in their studies and friendships to a toxic degree.

One of the most popular among the cohort is Kitty Calloway. She’s a girl who leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets – but she’s now missing.

On the same night, her literature teacher, Wells Halifax, is found on the remote boarding school’s beach unconscious. Once awoken, he has no recollection of the last six months and his close friends are quick to travel to his aid.

Everyone at Glennmare Academy is shocked by the turn of events and detectives and staff are left suspicious of the night’s happenings.

Surely her tight-knit friendship group knows more than they are letting on and just how close was Mr Halifiax to his students?

A rural boarding school filled with secrets

Told cleverly in multiple narratives, The Glennmare Girls by Anya Mora slowly builds suspense with many different points of view. Its short and snappy chapters ensure a great pacing.

The main characters are well-developed and complex. However, more insight into some secondary characters and their interesting backstories would have been appreciated.

Despite this, there’s lots of clever detail throughout alongside twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end.

Please note, difficult themes include: sexual assault self-harm, eating disorders, mental health, grooming and animal abuse.

The Glennmare Girls by Anya Mora was released on 18 December 2023 via Joffe Books.

I personally have read The Glennmare Girls. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

You Wouldn’t Catch Me Dead by Tess James-Mackey

You Wouldn't Catch Me Dead by Tess James-Mackey

Keely will do anything to forget her past. Moving to a new school, she hopes to keep a low profile by keeping her head down. However, when forced on a group camping trip to a remote location in Wales with five peers, she’ll have to find her voice and learn to rely on others again.

You Wouldn’t Catch Me Dead by Tess James-Mackey is centred around Keely, a recluse desperate to keep a low profile in a new town.

Forced to take part in a school camping trip with five of her classmates, she must learn to quickly adapt and interact with others.

Isolated in the Black Mountains in Wales, a freak accident means the tense group must work together to get help. Unfortunately, the area is remote. There is no signal, people or transport nearby.

Like her peers, Keely remains on edge in the wilderness. However, she has more than current events haunting her. In this terrifying situation, she is triggered by her past, swept away often in her grief.

As things continue to go wrong, she becomes suspicious that there’s something nefarious going on. Together, these ambitious students must get help – and quickly.

The turmoil of teenage angst and grief

The novel has a nice pacing. The flashback chapters were useful in adding depth to Keeley’s character and understanding her somewhat steely personality. In addition, the final few chapters were fast-paced, throwing you into turmoil.

The remote setting is spectacularly spooky and sinister. The scenic descriptions add to the uneasy feeling throughout.

I particularly liked the way James-Mackey explored and illustrated grief. I thought it was very realistic and poignant.

Overall a thrilling and at times sinister youth adult novel with well-developed main characters. It’s certainly worth a read in 2024.

You Wouldn’t Catch Me Dead by Tess James-Mackey will be released on January 18 2024 via Hachette Children’s Group.

I personally have read You Wouldn't Catch Me Dead. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng

Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng

Sunny Lee is a disgraced former K-pop icon. Her world has fallen apart after a scandal and the tragic death of her co-star, Minnie.

The aftermath of these events is brutal. In the depth of a well-illustrated depression, Sunny ruminates on her past success and obsesses over her remaining co-star Candie’s distance.

Seeing an opportunity to join Candie in a competitive idol workshop, she seeks redemption and the truth.

Gorgeous Gruesome Faces is an enthralling debut novel by Linda Cheng.

We’re introduced to a defeated and disgraced Sunny Lee, a former K-pop icon in the US. Her world fell apart after a scandal and the tragic death of her co-star, Minnie.

The aftermath of these events is brutal. In the depth of a well-illustrated depression, now eighteen-year-old Sunny spends her day reflecting on her former glory and cyberstalking her ex-bestie and remaining groupmate, Candie.

Once closer than ever, the death of Minnie changes everything. Candie is now unreachable, and the distance between the remaining groupmates is colossal.

On seeing Candie’s latest venture online, Sunny sees an opportunity for redemption and reconnection. Despite her hesitation, she auditions for the same competitive idol workshop, tackling her trauma and the rift head-on.

However, things are not quite what they seem. Sunny is haunted by more than just past mistakes, co-dependant relationships and complicated sapphic love.

The rise and fall of Sunny Lee

The novel is told from Sunny’s perspective with past and present timelines. These contrasting chapters increase tension, pace the story and allow for vivid world-building.

These alternating timelines also illustrate the depth of the co-stars’ relationships. When at their worst, they are explosive with teenage hormones, mean-girl cattiness and complexity.

The toxicity of K-pop culture

The novel presents a brilliant portrayal of idol culture’s appeal, pressures and toxicity. Combine this K-pop glamour and ruthlessness, a thrilling story full of twists and a dash of occult horror, and you’re in for a magnificent debut (novel).

Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng will be released on November 7, 2023, via Roaring Brook Press.

I personally have read Gorgeous Gruesome Faces. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca Cover

It’s been twenty years since Ruby left Stoneybrook, Montana, having vowed to never return.

Throughout her childhood, her manipulative mother Ida forced her to join her schemes, exploiting Ruby to ravage the local community with false mediumship and psychic scams.

With her mother missing and presumed dead, she’s forced to return to settle her affairs. However, Ruby has her doubts – what really happened to Ida?

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca is a mystery thriller that focuses on the life of thirty-something Ruby.

On receiving a call from her old flame, Aidan, she must go home to settle her presumed dead mother’s affairs.

It’s been twenty years since Ruby Carlson fled Stoneybrook, Montana, and she vowed to never return.

A teenage runaway, she has lived an idyllic life in England since she was eighteen and enjoys a successful career as an archaeologist.

Now she’s back in a place brimming with disturbing memories and horrific secrets. Here, she must uncover the truth, what really happened to Ida?

Additionally, she also hopes to rekindle her bond with Aidan and then get as far away from Stoneybrook as possible.

Escaping a nightmare childhood

The novel is told from Ruby’s perspective throughout with dual timelines, each chapter offering either a present or past account. This allows the reader to understand the extent of Ida’s manipulation, coercion and control of Ruby in her childhood and the damage it’s caused in adulthood.

Essentially, Ruby must now unravel the truth amidst half-truths, whispers, lies and secrets. DeLuca knows how to keep the reader interested, masterfully revealing snippets of information throughout to guide us through the mystery and keep us hooked.

As we reflect on the chapters set in the past, we see that ultimately, Ruby’s life was very lonely. Her only childhood joy was her friendship and courtship with Aidan. Thankfully, DeLuca weaves a blossoming and charming relationship between them in their youth.

As a teenager and spurred on by Aidan, we see Ruby’s confidence develop. Eventually, rebelling leads to her ultimate goal, freedom.

Uncovering the mystery of Ida’s disappearance

However, on her return to Montana in the present, we can almost sympathise with the community in Stoneybrook. Understandably, feelings haven’t changed toward Ruby and her mother. Ostracised by most, their past contempt is a feeling Ruby remembers all too well.

In turn, this treatment also seems unfair. Essentially, Ida forced a young Ruby into her fraudulent schemes, exploiting her ‘gift’ to ravage the local community, especially those she perceived as vulnerable. DeLuca creates a myriad of complex relationships due to this, which has the reader questioning who is right and wrong.

Despite this disdain, Ruby seemingly had little choice as a child, controlled by the manipulative and narcissistic, Ida.

She must navigate these hostile reactions, unlock difficult memories and deal with current emotions, all charging at full speed. In doing so, a realistic character is crafted, imperfect and complex. One we root for, hoping she gets the answers she seeks.

In order for Ruby to overcome her past she must fully embrace her present situation. She must solve the mystery and untangle her trauma if she hopes to enjoy true freedom in the future.

Overall, The Night Side is a thrilling read. It offers complex characters, well-illustrated environments and twists aplenty throughout its well-paced narrative.

The Night Side by M.M DeLuca is due to be published on 5 December 2023.

I personally have read The Night Side. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson Book Cover

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson is a gritty, intense and at times, shocking read.

This book tells the story of Mary B. Addison, a young Black girl who allegedly killed a white baby when she was nine years old.

Mary is now 16, pregnant and living in a group home after years in ‘baby jail’. She is fighting to clear her name in a desperate attempt to keep her baby. As an ex-convict and notorious ‘child murderer’, her chances are slim. So, she must act quickly.

We soon learn about Mary’s disturbing past and the heart-breaking abuse she faced in childhood.

It’s evident that Mary has been betrayed by many who were meant to protect her. Most importantly, her mother. Their relationship dynamic is harrowing, detailed in brief 15-minute encounters and via Mary’s own narrative and reflection.

Fighting for her future

Mary’s always seemingly kept it together, silently tormented. However, as Mary’s baby grows within, cracks begin to show. Her years of pent-up emotion start to unravel in her desperation. Her hormones work against her. You feel her pain first-hand, often sympathising with her actions.

In addition to Mary’s perspective, snippets embellish the story. We read police interviews, witness statements, character references and book excerpts. These broaden the story but often go against what we know about Mary. A gifted young woman who may or may not have done the unthinkable.

Mary is complex and determined to succeed and her attempt to change the horrific narrative is almost admirable. The characters she engages with have depth. Sympathising with Mary’s judgement of them throughout, you are often left happy or frustrated by her experiences with others.

Allegedly is a disturbing and emotional read with themes of child murder, abuse, racism and mental health. Saying this, it’s an important one. It touches on heavy subjects without being afraid of its target audience as a young adult novel.

I personally have read Allegedly. However, this post does contain affiliate links.