Review: No Exit

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

Taylor Adam’s No Exit is a keep-you-on-your-toes thriller that mixes classic storytelling with contemporary high-velocity suspense novel pacing. It’s been forever since I  read a thriller that was so scary I had to put it down at night. No Exit had so many skin-crawling twists and turns that I ended up reading most of it during the day!

This book is basically one of my worst fears made real. I used to live in a remote, rural part of the inland Pacific Northwest (United States) and spent a good deal of time driving from one really remote place to another. Rest stops were the only places where I encountered other human beings, and when you are driving for hours on end to get from one small city to another, you have to stop to go to the restroom. I absolutely hated these drives, especially in the winter, because rest stops are usually pretty empty spare a few questionable folks.

The lead character, Darby, is embarking on the same kind of trip in the middle of a snowstorm. The storm becomes so bad that the roads are closed and she is forced to stop overnight at a sketchy rest stop with a cast of equally oddball characters. Darby has been desperately trying to get home to see her mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing surgery for it. Her mind is clouded with regret over things she hasn’t said to her and things she wishes she didn’t say to her mother.

Amid these terrible feelings, she soon begins to suspect that something is gravely amiss at the rest stop when, in an attempt to get cell phone service outside, she sees what appears to be a child trapped in a sketchy looking van. Is her guilt and mind playing tricks on her, or is something absolutely horrific taking place at the rest stop? When Darby goes back inside the rest stop, she must figure out who is lying, who is the owner of the van, and who may be posing a threat to the entire rest stop. This is a very traditional whodunit (like Ten Little Indians or Clue!) in that the lead character must follow clues to decipher the potential killer/child-kidnappers.

My only complaint is that I am not a huge fan of horror writing, and this is a personal preference There are many gruesome parts of the book that I could have skipped. Nonetheless, this book kept me on the edge of my seat during the entire read. There were so many terrifying twists and turns, many of which I did not see coming!

Thank you to the publisher, William Morrow, the author, Taylor Adams, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy of this book!

Review: An Anonymous Girl

**4.5 Goodreads Stars**

“Sometimes a simple gift is actually a vessel utilized to issue a warning shot.”

“We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best. Even if the reasons are so deeply buried we can’t recognize them ourselves.”

To what lengths would you go if you were barely making ends meet?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s latest book, An Anonymous Girl, examines this question when the book’s lead character, Jessica, finds herself embroiled in a psychological study for generous compensation. Jessica is working as a struggling makeup artist when a client mentions a psychological study in which they are enrolled. This study piques Jessica’s interest as she needs money to make rent and help her family out. Jessica decides to pose as her client to get access to the study. Surprisingly, she is accepted into the study.

At first, the study seems like a financial dream come true. She gets paid a generous sum each time she fills out digital surveys about morality and choices she would make in particular scenarios. Soon, however, Jessica starts to question the purpose of the study and the intentions of the psychologist running it. Jessica feels as though she is revealing her entire life story – good and bad – to the mysterious psychologist behind the computer screen and begins to wonder if sharing such intimate details of her life is worth the price.

She becomes infatuated with the psychologist running the study, Dr. Shields, and wants to know why Dr. Shields needs to know so much information about her study’s subjects. Jessica discovers the gorgeous, wealthy, academically brilliant Dr. Shields has a dark past, one that Jessica believes may have led to the death of one of Dr. Shields’ subjects. Jessica finds herself drawn closer to Dr. Shields, befriending her with the intention of unraveling the shocking truth about the psychological study and its effect on its participants. The closer Jessica gets the more she questions her initial consent to the study.

I really liked the premise of this book, but I think it could have used a bit more editing; at times it felt a bit drawn out and slow. That being said, the authors know how to weave a clever, engaging story with characters with whom the reader can relate. They are brilliant writers who craft interesting prose that keeps you reading even if the story is a bit farfetched. As a researcher who has to follow the same institutional review board protocols discussed in this book, I can’t imagine someone like Dr. Shields surviving in academia (though she was on leave in the book for her misdeeds!). Psychological studies like the Stanford Prison Experiment have been known to take advantage of their subjects, though I would hope those are now far and few between.

If you are interested in the author’s other works: I read Sarah Pekkanen’s The Ever After earlier this year, and you can read my review here. I also read Hendricks and Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us, and my review can be found here. Thank you to the authors, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced e-galley of what will likely be one of the hottest psychological thrillers of 2018!

Review: Lies

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**5 Goodreads Stars**

“Everything you know is a lie. There was a stranger in my house, and I was married to her.”

Joe’s ordinary life as a part-time English high school teacher and stay-at-home-dad to his adorable 4-year-old son William is thrown into absolute chaos when William sees his mother’s car parked at a seedy hotel. William begs his dad to stop to see his mommy, which Joe does out of curiosity. What is his wife, a stunning, successful businesswoman, doing at a rundown hotel in the middle of the afternoon when she should be at work?

Joe reluctantly parks their car and enters the hotel. There, he discovers that his wife is meeting with a mutual family friend, Ben, who is wealthy beyond imagination. Ben and Joe’s wife are having what appears to be a heated discussion over a meal. Realizing this isn’t the best place for a 4-year-old, Joe quickly exits the hotel hoping his wife and Ben did not see them. As soon as they get to their car, Ben appears out of nowhere. Joe and Ben get into a confrontation, which leads to Joe pushing Ben onto the ground. Ben’s head hits the pavement and he is knocked unconscious.

As if things can’t get worse, William starts to have an asthma attack and Joe can’t find his inhaler. Joe abandons Ben in the parking lot and speeds home to get William’s inhaler. Plagued with guilt, Joe heads back to the parking lot once William is better only to discover Ben is no longer there. What happened to Ben? Is he okay? Or did something terrible happen?

Even worse, Joe confronts his wife about Ben and fails to get a straight answer from her about their meeting. What is Joe’s wife lying about? Why won’t she tell Joe the truth? In the meantime, Ben has gone missing. Ben’s wife, Beth, and teenage daughter, Alice, are distraught and report his disappearance to the police. Soon Joe is drawn into a police investigation and becomes the number one suspect in Ben’s possible murder. Joe’s friends and family doubt his innocence, leaving him on his own to solve the mystery of what happened to Ben.

TM Logan’s Lies is a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller that never has a dull moment. There are so many creative twists and turns in this book and I was sad to see it end.  I loved all the cyber espionage in the story and the discussions of how technology can be used to sabotage a police investigation and conceal reality. Logan has a gift for drawing the reader into the story. I love books that have characters who are relatable, empathetic, and authentic. Joe, the lead character, was all of these things and more. While the ending was a bit Lifetime Movie-esque, I was captivated by all the scenes leading up to the finale. If you like novels that keep you guessing until the very last page, Lies is definitely for you.

Thank you to the author, TM Logan, and NetGalley for an advanced e-galley of Lies. I look forward to reading Logan’s next book!