I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamera #BookReview

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A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

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Isn’t it unbelievable that a person is able to stay undetected for so many years while he attacked more than 50 people in their homes and even escalated to murder? Well sadly this is the incredible but true story of the Golden State Killer, although he goes by a few other names as well in his early days such as the East Area Rapist or the Night Stalker.

After a very impressive introduction by Gillian Flynn I wanted to dive right in and see for myself what an unsurmountable task Michelle took upon herself. It was clear right away from the huge listing of places where he attacked that she had made an immense engagement to write this novel and to try and propel the investigation forwards.

I didn’t quite know what to expect of this novel, written by a woman who ploughed through so many documents, testimonials and notes but sadly passed away in her sleep before she could finish the story she had started. What I discovered from the parts she left behind was an intriguing portrait of the man responsible for so much grief over such a long period of time. Case after case passed before my eyes and it became clear how illusive this man is. What makes it even weirder is that even though there were many encounters with him – and we know it’s him because he has some particular markers of the things he does and pretty specific habits – his persona remains ever so vague. One time he’s described as blond haired, another time he has brown hair.. I couldn’t really get a good image of him in my head nor get a grip on who he is and what drives him.  He’s really just as slippery as an eel and an important factor why he was able to stay out of the hands of the police for so long must have been because he was clever enough to expand his territory so it spanned several states. In those days there wasn’t a computer system yet that could detect the same MO in crimes over state borders and finger printing methods were also near non-existent, which became painfully obvious from this novel.

Where the first part of the novel was mostly a historical overview where I could feel the desperation that this perpetrator couldn’t be found, the second part of the novel was more hopeful and it shone a light on possible suspects, letting me scrutinize every morsel of additional information that was offered. Thoughts and ideas are tossed around and shared with the reader, even if dismissed subsequently. It was fascinating to read what possibilities there were and which loose ends needed more work. Michelle had interviews with retired detectives, went around to look at old crime scenes and her obsession for the investigation is almost palpable.

As much as this is a quest to find the Golden State Killer, it is also one to find out who Michele McNamera is and I think at least that last part was achieved. The novel didn’t feel finished and it really isn’t all neatly wrapped up and organised, but it gives a pretty good idea of all the work Michelle already did and what she was working on and you can feel what could have been if she had had the chance to continue her hard work.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a novel that is begging to be discussed among readers and true crime lovers and I’m positive new ideas and courses of action will find root from this work. There are no set answers in the end but at least this novel will make sure that it is not put to rest and new energy can be drawn from this laborous oeuvre.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2) by Daniel Cole #BookReview

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Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

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Hangman is the second novel of Daniel Cole’s trilogy about the Ragdoll murders. His first novel, the original ‘Ragdoll’, left me with a lot of anticipation in the end and I was quite eager to see how the story would continue but I’m afraid the plotline didn’t pick up where it left off and the focus in this novel is really on Baxter who teams up with detective Rouche and Curtis in this novel while she also still manages to get assistance from Edmunds on the side (poor Edmunds helps out in his own private time). Baxter has been promoted to Chief Inspector and thrown into an international inquiry to assist the FBI and CIA when they are facing their own Ragdoll murders, which takes her from London to New York. Meanwhile new murders commence in London once again as well.

Hangman is everything Ragdoll was but more. It was more gruesome, it was more (way more) spectacular, it was bigger, it was bolder, it was more complex and with a much higher body count.

I really liked the new team surrounding Baxter and I even think I liked the team’s interactions more than the murder inquiry here for most of the story. Ragdoll was perhaps a bit easier to follow than Hangman as well. Rouche (pronounced like whoosh) was very likeable and the brilliant opening scene where Baxter is being interviewed had me fearing the worst already for what was about to happen. The hunt for the killer wasn’t as much about finding out who was responsible but more their efforts for capturing him without going under themselves. In the final and third part of the novel I was almost breaking a sweat as the situation became increasingly dangerous when they try to infiltrate and get closer to the killer. Mr. Cole doesn’t hold back at all and it already felt like a movie. Seven will get some competition soon ;-).

This was a good follow-up for Ragdoll – even though that remains my favorite for reasons I can’t really point out other than that this one is perhaps just a little bit more chaotic to read with everything that is happening in both countries – and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Home by Amanda Berriman #BookReview

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Jesika is four and a half.

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.

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Home is “a safe place, a place where one lives, especially together as a family, it is meant to be a place of affection, joy and happiness, a valued refuge and resting place, a habitation offering security and protection, where friendships flourish.”

I can only agree, a home is supposed to be all of the above, it’s a happy place which is why it’s probably so heartbreaking when you see that one or more of these conditions are broken. There’s a lot going on in Jesika, Toby and their mum Tina’s life that is simply not OK, and will make your heart go out to them. Their poor housing conditions are just one of the many struggles.

The novel is told through the eyes of a very young child and I was afraid the ‘childish language’ would turn me off eventually, but it did not irk me and even enabled the author to deliver the story in a much more compelling manner. I’m sure an adult could have told a story about poverty but if a child talks about how she wants to draw a pond around the ‘tadpoles’ on the wall, and the realisation hits you that she’s talking about mold, it just comes down on you ten times so hard and that’s what this story is supposed to do. It has to make you ‘feel‘ how hopeless Tina, Jesika’s mum, feels at times, caring for two kids on her own, living in what she herself calls a dump, or any other unpleasant name she gives their appartment, and this was further enhanced by Jesika’s childishly naive observations, as all she knows is not to draw on the wall or come near the window or she’ll be told off.

Jesika was a great little protagonist. Above everything else she doesn’t want to do anything naughty and risk being sent away where she has to live with a new mummy. It made my heart squeeze how she’s trying to make the right choice and do the right thing when push comes to shove about telling on her friend Paige, who sometimes wants to be her friend and other times isn’t really friendly at all.

I don’t want to spoil anything but I do think this novel should come with a trigger warning because it does broach a rather unsettling theme as well. I didn’t cry reading this novel and was thankful I was able to keep at least a bit of a distance from the most disturbing events through the narration from another POV which was not as personal as it could have been. I don’t know how I would have coped at all if Jesika would have been affected even more than she already was.

Home was a very touching tale where the harshness of this families’ situation stems from what isn’t said but is felt through the innocent observations of a four-year old and her eavesdropping from the grown-ups. If you’re looking for a poignant story about one of the harsh realities of today’s society and how difficult it can be to find a way out and make a better life, but also comes with some real heart-warming friendships at the center of the story and where you can root for , then don’t pass up the opportunity to read Home.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen #BookReview

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When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement.

It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves.

The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman.

You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.

You will be wrong.

The Wife Between Us is the first collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen; a gripping thriller with film rights sold to the creators of The Girl On the Train.

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What an exhilirating read! I’ve read some quotes telling me this novel is in the vein of The Girl on the Train but it’s nothing of the sort as far as I can see. This is not to be compared and doesn’t need any comparison to other novels. I even predict that future novels will be compared to this one. I really hope that is the case because I really want more of this!

The story starts off with Vanessa’s & Nellie’s story and their perception of the man they love or loved. I know lots of people would like to know a bit more about the actual story and I’m telling you that the budding romance of Nellie and at the same time the discarded feelings of Vanessa regarding Richard will certainly have you turning the pages.

Vanessa is living with her aunt after her husband left her for a younger model. She had to take a job at Saks selling clothing to get by. An old acquaintance runs into her and informs her her ex is getting married again. That is the last thing she wants to happen so she’ll do anything to stop him from marrying again. She already knew everything about ‘the other woman’, where she works, lives.. but a marriage wasn’t something she was anticipating.

Nellie teaches her little cubs at the LearningLadder and is a waitress. She tried to escape her past, fleeing from Florida after graduation so she’s pretty much on her own. She knows nothing of the world and is completely smitten with Richard.

Of course I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was on high alert but alas, I was deceived as well. This initial, first twist in the story came much sooner than I thought and I think it might be the one I even enjoyed most of all.

When I recovered and I got back on my feet it was time to find out more about the reasons why Richard left Vanessa.. he seems so attentive, considerate, you know someone who wouldn’t even look at other women (or pretend not to). I couldn’t wait to find out the reasons for their divorce. What could have been so bad that he didn’t want her anymore? Well I wasn’t prepared for this but it certainly had me gripped.

I liked Nellie from the start but I really grew to like Vanessa as well and aunt Charlotte was so sweet, everyone would love to have an aunt like that! I didn’t like snob Richard or Richard’s sister Maureen from the start though, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one with weird thoughts but there was this unsettling vibe when I read about their sibling interactions. She was supposedly a bit of a little mother for Richard but it just didn’t feel enough like motherly love to me. Neither of Richard’s girlfriends picked up on that througout the story so it might only be my too twisted mind this time.

Just when I thought I finally heard Vanessa’s full story and every stone was turned and every secret unearthed, and the game was finally over, a final brilliant reveal is lobbed at you in the end. I’m very satisfied with the way the story ended. This was a gripping read with a whole lot of character that was pretty addictive to me and I’m very curious about the movie already! This is definitely a five-star read on Goodreads and Amazon :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion. 

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land #BookReview

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What’s it about?

When Annie hands her mother over to the police she hopes for a new start in life – but can we ever escape our past?


Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way Annie can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

With a new foster family and a new name – Milly – she hopes for a fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But as her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of Milly’s past won’t let her sleep . . .

Because Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water…

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I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for soooo long! One of my favorite series since forever is the I Hunt Killer series by Barry Lyga where he wrote about the son of a serial killer and his inner turmoil. Well this one’s the female equivalent.

There’s only one POV in this novel and that’s Annie’s, or Milly as she is called now that she’s got a new life with the Newmonts, her temporary foster family. Her father and her brother fled from home a long time ago, her mother is waiting in jail for the court case to appear. After 15 years of living with her dear mum she has told the police about young Daniel and the other children that came to stay with them and were locked in the ‘playground’. It was enough, it had to stop. All she wants is a normal life and to feel normal but can she really?

Different. That was the first thing that went through my head when I started reading this novel. I didn’t know yet what this girl went through but she was certainly different from us. She continually assesses people, she’s a master observer of other people’s intentions, behaviour and even her smell is more developed than yours or mine.

Good Me Bad Me is Milly’s internal struggle between good and bad and it was quite fascinating to see how she is trying so hard but there are always those little pinpricks of conditioned behavior and of old memories where she’s back in the role of doing what her mother wants her to do. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, she wants to be good but she hears her mother’s voice inside her head who is telling her she looks just like her all the time. Even after all the terrible abuse that she suffered – divulged through small morsels throughout the story – she still misses her and doesn’t want to disappoint her.

I really liked hearing what was going on inside Milly’s head and her internal conversations with her mother made it even more disturbing. There was always a sense of foreboding that something could tip Milly over to the wrong side. Her friendship with Morgan proved difficult, she wanted to share who she really was but was afraid for the rejection as the daughter of a serial killer, and her stepsister Phoebe made it even harder. She’s a real bully but doesn’t know who Milly really is, and with all that’s going on in Milly’s little head… let’s just say I was anxious for the girl. It felt kind of dangerous playing with the daughter of a serial killer.

The build-up to the trial is pretty suspenseful and even then I didn’t know what she was going to tell the jury. In the end though there wasn’t anything I didn’t expect or see coming, I was anticipating something would be up. It’s not that kind of story of many twists and turns but even if it wasn’t, it was very captivating. I felt sympathy, sadness, pity and anger for Milly. At times I wished she had reached out and told her true thoughts to Mike, at other times I could certainly understand why she didn’t.

This is a great debut novel and I can understand why so many readers became so enthralled, it is really worth reading.

I bought a paperback copy of this book at full price. This is my honest opinion.

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan #BookReview

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What’s it about?

This is how it begins.

With a near-empty building, the inhabitants forced out of their homes by property developers.

With two women: idealistic, impassioned blogger Ella and seasoned campaigner, Molly.

With a body hidden in a lift shaft.

But how will it end?

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Waw. That ending! Those final chapters were so good they had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I really tore through the part ‘where it ends’ and couldn’t put it down. Needless to say that I’m still tired the morning after, but it was all very worth it. I can’t imagine anyone stopping in the middle of those final revelations.

If I have to be honest, I did have some niggles in the beginning which I want to share but I can assure you that they melted away in the end. The story is told by two protagonists, Molly the photographer and Ella the student protestor, but also jumps from present to past and I had some difficulty placing the time shifts of Then and Now (told by either Molly or Ella). I had to search my memory where and when the plotline was taking place and I often felt slightly disoriented, which was weird because I’ve read plenty of novels with a past and present timeline and it’s the first time it tripped me up. Thinking back it’s probably due to the fact that they are going backwards in time and it’s more like a drop-in at another point in time. The only other thing that caused some problems were the side characters that were involved but were never formally introduced. They just appear in the story and you have to read between the lines who they are and what their relationship is to the two main characters. I understand why the author didn’t feel it necessary to present them, but it’s not one of my strong points and when I can’t define them exactly it’s also harder to remember and really get a good visual and feel for them.

So in short, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this novel, until it all changed drastically and went from okay it’s a good read to OMG what IS THIS BOOK, this is incredible. I take all of my previous reservations back, I regret having had them as well! The more I think back now, the more I like everything that happened from the beginning as well and it makes me want to reread the entire novel with a new set of eyes. I feel like I seriously underappreciated all the effort that went into writing this because I assumed lots of it was just background and I willed them to concentrate on that body found in the elevator more, but let me just say that it’s all very very relevant and key to who that person in the elevator is. I think I’d like it even more when reading a second time, even if – especially when – I know what’s coming. It really has a very good plotline that I didn’t see coming at all. I seriously didn’t know there was so much to the story and I will never underestimate Eva Dolan again, I vow to that.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan #BookReview

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What’s it about?

You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

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So it might well be that it’s been done before and yes I might have read quite a few novels where the main character is stalked, finds secret messages and sees things that cause raised eyebrows, all while they’re not taken serious by anyone (I’m thinking about The Breakdown here) but THIS novel is better and more captivating than the ones I read before.

Two of the main characters, sisters Corinne and Ashley are carrying this novel in a magnificent way. They both think that the other has the perfect life but neither was ideal and without trouble. It was so very interesting to see Corinne’s struggle with her unfulfilled child wish, but also all the problems and struggles her big sister Ashley has with her 3 children. Her eldest is 15 and hard to control, half the time she doesn’t know where she is or hangs out with. Her little boy gets into a fight at school and her youngest, Holly, has nightmares every night. Ashley is almost at the end of her wit but pretty much on her own to handle them, as James seems to work all hours. It’s so unlike him and he’s so distant that she’s even starting to doubt if he’s having an affair. At least Corinne and Dominic are a perfect couple. He’s protective, supportive and loving.

The sisters’ stories are so contrasting, it was fabulous to see that pendulum swing this way and that. It also made me wonder continually for which sister I had the most sympathy and in which situation I’d rather find myself in. I think my favorite character in the story was most of all Ashley because she’s such a strong woman who doesn’t break but does everything in her power to keep everyone in her little family happy. My heart also went out to toddler Holly. Why those nightmares? They didn’t seem to make much of it but the author did a brilliant job making me imagine the absolute worst by being so subtle. I was actually scared of what I might discover and that I’d be forced to read some very disturbing scenes. I was spared and very relieved that didn’t happen, so don’t worry.

That’s not to say there are no hard-hitting scenes found in this novel, but they all circle around an ‘unknown’ lurker operating in the background. This mystery woman spent her entire childhood ‘watching’ a family from a distance. She had quite a heart-breaking and sad childhood and it’s clear that the hatred was passed from mother to daughter. I didn’t know who this person was, or why they were acting like this in the past and present, but there were a few suspects in the story. Although it didn’t come as a complete surprise, I was never completely sure of who this person was so I was actually quite happy when it all came out in a chilling finale.

I found this a very entertaining and brilliant debut novel with lots of intrigue and an ever-present sense of threat and creepiness. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Phoebe Morgan!