Sponsored by Forge Books.
Spencer Quinn’s It’s a Wonderful Woof presents an all-new adventure for Chet the dog and his human partner, PI Bernie Little. Holiday time in the Valley, and in the holiday spirit Bernie refers a potential client to Victor Klovsky, a fellow private eye. It’s also true that the case—promising little action—doesn’t appeal to Bernie, while it seems perfect for Victor, who is not cut out for rough stuff. But Victor disappears in a rough-stuff way, and when he doesn’t show up at his mom’s to light the Hanukkah candles, she hires Chet and Bernie to find him.
Hello mystery fans! Turns out that two of my recent page-turner reads were revenge thrillers, and since this isn’t therapy time, we’re not going to delve into what that may mean, but rather we’re going to talk about the books.
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
There’s a study being conducted on psychopaths at a university, by one of the professors. He believes much of what has been believed and the way society treats psychopaths is wrong. The students enrolled wear specific smart watches and keep a journal along with meeting with the professor. They do not know of any other members in the study, nor does the public know of this study.
We mainly get the point of view of three students in the study: Chloe, Charles, and Andre. Chloe is very clearly in the study and at this school for only one reason: she’s going to kill the student who assaulted her when she was a tween. That’s it, get out of her way. Charles is very much using the program to learn and adapt and trying to do well in school and maintain his relationship with his girlfriend. Andre is lying about being a psychopath–what started as kind of a joke snowballed and then he couldn’t turn down a full scholarship. While they all have their own individual issues, they all end up with one shared issue: someone is killing them off!
This worked for me on a lot of levels, starting with it being thoughtfully written and not another book filled with stereotypes. I really liked how different all the characters were and following their individual stories. As for the main reasons I couldn’t put this book down: I really needed to know if Chloe would succeed and also to find out who is behind the murders! I really look forward to what Kurian writes next.
(TW nonconsensual drugging/ past tween rape/ adult child abuse/ briefly recounts teacher student statutory relationship, not graphic/ webcam hacking and non-consensual distribution of sexual images/ past suicide briefly mentioned, detail)
The Hollow Inside by Brooke Lauren Davis
I absolutely stayed up way past my bedtime reading this. I was grabbed from the very opening page as Phoenix, a seventeen-year-old, is sent to rob a home by her mother–I mean there is already so much to unpack! I will stop here for a second to say I knew NOTHING about this book when I started and loved watching how layer by layer everything past and present unfolds. Brooke Lauren Davis clearly understands that part of a good mystery/thriller can be in the way information is doled out to the reader. So with that said, I can’t remember what is revealed early vs later, so if you like the full ride, just go grab the book rather than reading below.
After that tense opening scene, you follow along as this mother duo team (Phoenix and Nina), who are living in a van and steal everything they need, make their way to a small town that Nina grew up in. They have one very clear mission: ruin the life of the man who ruined Nina’s life. It’s not going to be so easy though, because Ellis Bowman is literally the town hero. The head of the perfect and beloved family. He’s also a blockbuster author who keeps putting out memoir/self-help books based on how perfect his life is.
But Nina has a plan, and Phoenix is to carry it out. Except things immediately go wrong, and Phoenix ends up being taken in by the Bowman family. Maybe this new plan will work better? But while Bowman’s son is like a golden retriever in human form and ready to believe all of Phoenix’s lies and help her, his sister Melody is the complete opposite. Melody is certain Phoenix is there for the family’s recent misfortune and to sell information to the papers.
What starts as a straight revenge plan suddenly gets more complicated for Phoenix as she recognizes herself in Melody and starts to have difficult decisions to make in carrying out her mom’s plan.
I loved the way this unfolded, how you get to know past and present Nina, and Melody and Phoenix’s relationship. I also loved the way the points of view are shown: instead of the present story being from the revenge seekers POV, we only see in past chapters what happened to lead up to Nina wanting revenge and the rest of the book is narrated by Phoenix who doesn’t know she’s caught between it all until it’s too late.
(TW domestic abuse, not graphic nor on page but a “fleeing” scene/ statutory rape/ brief mention of past suicide, detail/ side character with terminal cancer)
From The Book Riot Crime Vault
Don’t forget to check out the limited edition Book Riot merch, celebrating our 10th birthday!
Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2021 releases. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!
If a mystery fan forwarded this newsletter to you and you’d like your very own, you can sign up here.