The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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The River at Night is one of the best suspenseful, action-packed thrillers that I’ve read in quite some time. It’s a debut novel from author Erica Ferencik, and what a brilliant first novel it is! The story pacing rolls and twists erratically, much like the dangerous river Wini, Pia, Rachel, and Sandra are rafting through the remote Maine wilderness. Ferencik’s characters are vividly portrayed, each uniquely drawn but vitally important to the story. The four women have been friends for many years, but don’t spend as much time together as they would like. Pia, the most adventuresome, fearless and usual leader of the group, plans a trip to the Allagash wilderness in a remote mountainous area of Maine, 30 miles from the closet town. The plan is to meet up with a river guide, Rory, a complete stranger they will have to trust with their lives to get them down the river safely. Despite the trepidation and worry involved with trying something new, Wini and the others are excited for a fun annual girls trip together. Wini is especially excited to have something to focus on, after losing her younger brother and the recent end to her 15 year marriage. The women have no idea what kind of adventure, danger, and thrills await them on the river and in the surrounding wilderness.

Rory is a twenty year old, ruggedly handsome playboy making money by offering guided trips down the raging river. Pia and Rory hit it off a little too well, causing some heated tension between the women. However, they must put their feelings aside, realizing that they depend on Rory for safety and survival. About a third of the way into their trip and partially down the river, an unforeseen tragedy strikes, plunging the women into  a living nightmare. Suddenly they are hopelessly lost and have nothing – no river guide, no supplies, no raft, and no map. Fortunately, they have  each other, but not for long.

As night descends around them in the cold, damp wilderness, they see a beacon of hope – a campfire on the side of the mountain within walking distance. Reinvigorated a bit, they set off toward the fire to find a very primitive camp inhabited by two people. Wini quickly realizes that this backwoods, filthy pair is not actually going to help the women back to civilization at all. Instead, they aim to make the group disappear by all means necessary. Thus begins a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse as the women flee for their lives, but also race against the clock to survive before hunger, thirst, shock, and injuries consume them.

Readers will be dumbstruck by some of the lightning-speed plot twists near the end of the story. I loved the story, even though it didn’t end on a happy note, because (small spoiler alert!) not all the women make it out of the wilderness alive. The writing is vividly real, with brutally raw, emotional scenes between the friends as they cling to each other for support and survival. I also appreciated the way the river was portrayed as a character in itself, a beautiful, but relentless force of nature.

I highly recommend this book. I read it in one evening. You won’t be able to put it down, and I know you’ll love it as much as I did.

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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I enjoyed the first psychological thriller from Ruth Ware, In a Dark, Dark Wood, but this novel was oh so much better – with a luxury cruise liner as the setting and an abundance of possibilities among the guests as to who could be the killer(s).

Laura (Lo) Blacklock, a travel journalist from London, has just landed a dream assignment – to spend a week on-board a private luxury cruise liner with a limited amount of cabins on its maiden voyage in the North Sea. On board are rich and famous people, including the owners Lord Richard & his wife, Anne. Also along for the trip are other travel journalists, including Lo’s ex, Ben. Determined to make her boss proud, no-nonsense Lo decides to enjoy her time getting to know the other passengers a bit, even though she would probably rather be a recluse in her cabin.

After being woken up in the middle of the night by a loud splashing sound, Lo thinks she sees a woman being thrown overboard from cabin 10, the cabin adjacent to hers. Cabin 10 was to be empty for this trip, but earlier in the week Lo borrowed a mascara from a young girl who appeared to be staying in Cabin 10. Now the girl is nowhere to be found, and none of the passengers or crew have seen her. Did Lo imagine it all? Is she being ultra paranoid after the recent break-in at her own flat? When she seeks help from security and then the ship’s owner, they turn it into her problem, claiming she drank too much and the medication she is on caused her to imagine the whole thing. But Lo knows she saw the girl, and she vividly remembers the blood smeared on the veranda window and the splash of a body into the frigid North Sea. So who was the girl in Cabin 10? Was she thrown overboard? By who? And now the killer knows Lo has seen something. If Lo can just keep it together until they reach a port, she thinks she’ll be able to find someone to believe her. But soon the stakes get higher and she is in way over her head. Will she be able to get away before the killer silences her for good?

This is a very fast-paced novel with an Agatha Christie-like plot. A strong-willed woman with a skeptical past thinks she has witnessed a murder, but no one believes her, causing her to become more and more paranoid of everyone around. Lo is on her own, unsure of who she can trust, while trying to solve a mystery and steer clear of a killer in very cramped quarters out on the open seas. I couldn’t put this book down, and it was suspenseful up through the final pages. Fans of psychological thrillers and authors like Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, and Mary Kubica will truly enjoy the works of Ruth Ware.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the advanced review copy.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

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The Darkest Corners offers fast-paced thrills and suspense. The main character, Tessa, is sort of an unreliable narrator, causing readers to wonder whether she can truly be trusted, or if she is in on some secret herself. As more of Tessa’s family history and past is revealed, readers may start to feel sorry for her, rooting for her to make it out of the nightmare her life has become.

We first meet Tessa as she travels from Florida, where she lives with her aging Gram, back to her hometown. She hasn’t been back in 10 years, and is only going to say goodbye to her father, who is in prison and dying of cancer. He has been in prison for most of her life, and the memories of her father from childhood are mostly sad and violent. Tessa ends up staying with her former best friend and childhood playmate, Callie, who she also hasn’t seen in 10 years. Callie was born into a loving, stable family whereas Tessa came from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. Despite their differences, they were best friends once, prior to being separated at the age of 8. Now, neither wants to admit the truth of what actually happened 10 years ago to the other.

While they are in a sort of standstill with each other, one of their mutual old friends, Arial, goes missing and her body is found shortly thereafter. Her murder matches that of the Ohio River Monster, a man named Stokes, who is only behind bars because of 8 year old Callie’s and Tessa’s testifying that he abducted and then killed Callie’s cousin, Lori. So, if Stokes is still locked up, does that mean the Ohio River Monster is still on the loose and has been the whole time? Add into the mix that neither Tessa’s mother or sister have contacted her in 10 years and she is unable to locate either of them. What does that mean for Tessa? Who can she trust, and why is her family in hiding? Tessa has to figure out who the real serial killer is before it’s too late.

The ending is totally unexpected and will throw readers for a tailspin, in a good way, of course. I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to suspense, mystery, and thriller fans.

 

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

Married for many years and with twins in their first year of college, Sarah and Jack Quinlan live a pretty normal life. Sarah feels like she knows her husband pretty well. However, when Jack’s aunt Julia is in a tragic accident, Jack and Sarah make their first trip back to Jack’s hometown of Penny Gate to be there for his family. Julia was like a mother to Jack and his young9780778318651_16f01er sister, Amy, after Jack’s parents were killed when he was a teenager. Sarah was always under the impression that Jack’s parents were killed in an auto accident. Once she begins talking to Jack’s family members and others in the tight-knit community of Penny Gate, she realizes that Jack has been hiding the truth about his parents fate, as well as many other things from her throughout their whole marriage.

After Jack’s sister, Amy, is suspected of hurting Julia, Sarah begins to wonder if Jack is not the true mastermind behind it all. It doesn’t help his case when Sarah finds out that his cousin Hal’s wife, Celia, was Jack’s serious girlfriend in high school. Not one to back down easy, Sarah decides that she will not leave Penny Gate until she discovers the truth about Jack’s parents, Julia’s “accident,” and other strange things she has witnessed in the short time since she arrived. The closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to someone playing a very dangerous game with her life.

This is a fast paced read, and the suspense builds all the way to the end. Gudenkauf is great at leaving little clues throughout the story, without giving away the outcome too early. I enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to fans of Mary Kubica, Gillian Flynn, and Chevy Stevens.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

foolmeonceFool Me Once will be released on March 22, 2016. This is a stand alone suspense novel from Harlan Coben, best known for writing the fast-paced, popular Myron Bolitar series. Coben is a master at writing hard-to-put-down novels, and his latest is no different.

Maya Stern, a former special operations pilot, has just buried her husband after he was brutally murdered in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Maya is no stranger to loss, having just buried her sister 4 months prior to her husband’s death. A concerned friend, though Maya doesn’t truly trust anyone, has brought her a nanny cam to help her feel at ease while at work away from her 2 year old daughter. One day while viewing the footage, she catches a glimpse of the unbelievable – her husband playing with their daughter. She was there when he was shot and she knows he’s gone; so, how can this be? Is she suffering from PTSD, hallucinating, and imagining things, as her in-laws and friends start to suspect? Or, is Joe still alive? She starts to question the nanny, and realizes that someone is covering up the truth. She is determined to uncover the truth about Joe, and also his younger brother who died in a boating “accident” while the two were in college, despite being warned against such activity by those closest to her. Maya will not give up until she assures that the future is safe for her daughter.

This book will have you on the edge of your reading chair, biting your nails to the quick. It’s trademark Coben, with a major plot twist which throws the reader for a loop, as he or she tries to figure out the truth. This is a quick, suspenseful story with an unexpected ending. Readers will not be disappointed.

Where They Found Her – Kimberly McCreight

This book will be published April 14, 2015.

I really enjoyed this suspenseful, fast-paced psychological thriller. The author weaves together multiple story lines of four women living in the same community with loose ties to one another. As the story line progresses, much of the plot comes together in startling ways, with connections to past covered up crimes. I was hooked from the beginning and had to find out what happened. This caused me to read it very quickly. I haven’t read any other books by Kimberly McCreight, but I think after reading this, I would enjoy her other works. Her writing is crisp and real. My only criticism is that I wasn’t a fan of the harsh language that was used in the book. I think some of it would have been okay, but it was used a little too much. A story can be a good story without throwing vulgar words in as adjectives all over the place. However, I did enjoy the thrill of this story and I would recommend it to fans of suspense and thrillers. It may keep you up at night!