Book Review: The Wife and the Widow

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives. Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

What would you sacrifice to protect someone you love?

The plot of “The Wife and the Widow” is reminiscent of Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, the latter being one of the most awarded and talked-about thrillers of 2019. Novels of this caliber are truly deserving of praise greatly attributed to the authors’ intelligent manipulation of multiple timelines and dual perspectives. The sheer likability of this novel is not the story itself but the way White circumvented the multiple timelines, setting the pace for the big reveal. The result is a brilliant and staggering thriller piece that will leave you breathless afterward.  

The story revolves around the novel’s two female characters, Abby Gilpin and Kate Keddie-the wife and the widow, respectively.  Kate and her daughter, Mia, were supposed to surprise Kate’s husband, John, at the airport from his two-week conference in London for a palliative care research colloquium; but he didn’t arrive as scheduled. Kate soon learns that her husband lied about the conference and so many other things: dark secrets connecting her husband to a tragedy that took place in Belport Island.  What Kate discovers as she sets foot in their holiday home in Belport, starts to unsettle her usual passive demeanor, prompts her to reflect on how well she knew her husband urging her to seek for answers to questions that would reveal so many hidden truths. As Kate learns more about her husband’s past, she knew she will stop at nothing until she finds out what truly happened, even to risk her life for it.

Abby Gilpin’s seemingly normal life changed drastically when her husband confessed to a crime that was the biggest thing to happen in Belport Island in a long time.  Abby soon learns to face the truth about what her husband did and what she decides after that is tethered to the most basic of all maternal instincts: a mother’s protective nature.

Both wives were lied to.  Both husbands were not who they appear to be.  The hunt is on but are they prepared to handle the truth?

This is a clever and brilliantly written book, far better than what I expected.  In terms of plot, “The Wife and the Widow” sits on a high ground due to the complexity of its narrative structure. But the book’s value lies within White’s depiction of the roles mother play in defending and protecting their children even in the most afflicting of circumstances.  The moral problems explored in the book left me with an emotional discomfort that makes me question how far would I go to protect my children. Would the fear of moral ramifications even deter me from making unethical decisions to defend my family? White wishes to implore his readers to think about the implications of every action portrayed in his book.  I just couldn’t help but gush how thought-provoking this novel is. I don’t think I have ever devoured a book as unputdownable as this in a long time and my final verdict is that every reader must learn from stories like this because it may not be far from reality.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Christian White

Genre: Mystery Thriller / Crime Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: January 21st 2020 by Minotaur Books

ISBN-10: 1250194377

ISBN-13: 9781250194374

Book Review: The Other Mrs.

She tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

Kubica has created a well-researched narrative that explores multiple layers of mental illness which is quite a common trope in most thriller novels.  The fate of the characters in this nerve-wracking fictional work hangs on a balance and to be dealt with yet again the powerful tool of the unreliable narrator is enough to stay right till the end regardless of its almost predictable plot.

The most important theme of the novel concerns stigma and discrimination against mental illness.  People with mental illness are easily dismissed either as targets for public stigma and/or the stigma against the self.  The lesson to be learned from this work of fiction constitutes the 3A’s: awareness, acknowledgment, and action. Ignorance is not an excuse and apathy could dismiss any fundamental hopes of building confidence and healthy relationships and conditions. There is nothing more admirable than thrillers morphing into social novels that catalyze consciousness and elicit fury against injustices from people and society.  

What this novel presents, is real people dealing with real, oppressive problems. Kubica managed to represent characters battling against physical and mental health disorders and how self-centered, coercive, and manipulative people have taken advantage of their situation.  Bullying and abuse were also portrayed in this book and these socio-psychological problems are lethal seeds that grow into destructive ammunition later on in life.

Multiple timelines and multiple narrators, each with different perspectives and persuasions are the tools by which the author made use of to manipulate the readers.  The complexity of each of the characters–flawed and immanently human, yet vile and greedy–forms many archetypes common in fiction: “the villain”, “the victim”, “the rebel” and “the trickster”. But the element of surprise, judging by this book alone, is Kubica’s poison that kills whatever disappointment one reader may have of the plot’s predictability.  One might have misjudged the book early on but surprise, surprise, the narrative is not what you think it is. Just when you thought you already know the path the book is heading toward, the remarkable twist hits you right in the face. There seem to be no inhibitions on Kubica’s creative genius of a mind and to think that this novel is another suspenseful yet formulaic domestic thriller, will be in for a treat.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Mary Kubica

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (February 18, 2020)

ISBN-10: 0778369110

ISBN-13: 978-0778369110

Book Review: The Other People

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights traveling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.

His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

If you have lost a loved one, The Other People want to help. Because they know what loss is like. They know what pain is like. They know what death is like.

There’s just one problem . . . they want other people to know it too.

CJ Tudor’s fourth standalone novel, “The Other People” is nothing short of a thrilling, unputdownable mystery fiction that deftly reflects on circumstances and tragedies in relation to one’s frame of reference on death and revenge.  Gabe, Tudor’s main character, is presented as a father who had years to deal with the unfathomable loss of his wife and daughter. But Gabe had not come to terms with his daughter Izzy’s death just as yet. He stood by what he saw the night of the murder: Izzy’s face, with an unmistakable tooth missing in front, surfaced in a beat-up car just in front of Gabe while driving along the M1 motorway. He knew what he saw, believed it, and acted upon it with all the desperate hope a father always has for his child– holding on the belief that his daughter is alive and he will do whatever it takes to get her back.  

A story about a father’s undoing by what he believed was caused by his costly miscalculations, “The Other People” gives an insight into coping with grief and loss burdened by guilt and revenge.  Similar to another thriller novel, “The Kill Club” by Wendy Heard, Tudor has also fabricated a sinister underground organization hired to exact revenge founded on the Old Testament biblical justification: “an eye for an eye” on quid pro quo terms.

Layered with multiple narratives, Tudor has expertly presented each character’s backstory in well-structured chapters reaching mini-climaxes here and there, ending with suspenseful dialogues and cliffhangers.  The plot’s dramatic tension a stark reminder of why thriller novels serve to delight readers of the genre despite its taxing nature. I was unquestionably hooked from the beginning–how Tudor ably introduced her characters individually until the readers get to piece the events together, revealing how they were all connected by circumstances.  But the plot promises more than just another nail-biting bootless errand; not just another mystery to solve but one that appends a paranormal side story to contend with.

However, what started out as a brilliant atmospheric plot catapulted into an upsetting ending.  The build-up toward an intriguing plot twist was palpable and gripping yet, it was the novel’s ending that I found least convincing. What made up for the plot’s “thriller and suspense” facet, went downhill due to its lackluster depiction of the supernatural storyline: the paranormal connection between Alice and the girl she sees in the mirror.  The big reveal somehow failed to justify the atmospheric tension built on a purportedly solid premise. Despite being brilliant in many ways, this novel left me with a nagging feeling of being shortchanged. I was mostly geared toward the supernatural aspect of the story but the tasteless and rushed denouement of that part of the story failed to have upped the ante otherwise, it would have been a perfect thriller novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Author: C.J Tudor

Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Horror

Length: 327 pages

Publisher: January 28th 2020 by Ballantine Books

ISBN-10: 1984824996

ISBN-13: 978-1984824998

Book Review: The Wives

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.

It’s overwhelming how numerous domestic thriller novels have proliferated the book community over the course of the years.  With the increasing cases of domestic violence, divorce, and adultery, it’s no longer a surprise that female readers find themselves drawn to narratives that represent themselves within the context of marriage and relationships, abuse and the rightful justice they deserve.  The aphorism, “fiction as a reflection of reality” can never be truer than this case.

Tarry Fisher’s, “The Wives” presents an interesting premise about a wife who shares her husband with two other wives.  I have presumed the plot could go a hundred ways. From the outset, the novel started out strong, fast-paced, and unputdownable, emitting “The Girl on the Train” vibes.  But as the story progresses, I suddenly find myself navigating blindly, apparently lost in the story’s game of cat and mouse that the rising tension seems to fluctuate. I no longer felt the need to keep up with the plot and it didn’t help that I find the main character pathetically annoying and vulgar.  Whatever attempt at constructing an unreliable narrator to justify the plot, create a surprising plot twist, and to mislead the readers had been futile.

Overall, “The Wives” failed to grip me further on the basis of a seemingly forced plot with a lot of loose ends and loopholes.  There is not one character to root for. I felt the author was too focused on putting things into the story, meaning to progress in a specific way but the unlikely circumstances lack plausible and effective ways to create a somehow dependable thriller. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Author: Tarryn Fisher

Genre: Psychological Thriller / Domestic Thriller

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Berkley; Graydon House; Original edition (December 30, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1525805126

ISBN-13: 978-1525805127

Book Review: The Broken Girls

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced.

Where do I even begin?

I have always been fascinated by any piece of literature that involves horror or paranormal themes be it in films or novels.  There is something quite ghoulishly appealing in spine-tingling supernatural elements that no matter how much you dread watching or reading the scary parts, you just can’t seem to stop. 

Simone St. James’ novel, “The Broken Girls”, immediately hit the ranks reserved for novels I’ve mostly anticipated but did not disappoint.  I have known about this book when I began my search for horror-based genre novels and came across this gem highly recommended. There is more to this novel than just its brilliant interplay between Gothic elements and the mysterious trail of whodunit.  St. James was able to craft a narrative that depicts horror, mystery, history, and social injustices such as racism, corruption, the Nazi concentration camps, and unresolved murder cases. The result: a five-star novel that is hard to put down and even more difficult to part with.

The story unfolds with a prologue, establishing the plot’s context, setting off the dark and sinister atmosphere of the novel. It embarks on the usual trail of horror and mystery books plotted using dual timelines and alternating third-person POVs, meant to suspend and thrill the readers of what’s to happen next, perfectly dispersing out the clues until the puzzle is complete. St. James crafted this novel to combine a period piece and a modern-day setting, intelligently contrasting human behaviors in relation to the culture and environment at the time. The novel’s central plot may be about the mysteries surrounding two separate murders committed decades apart but St. James offers her readers a lot more to reflect on.  

I believe one of the reasons why readers are drawn to ghost stories is to dig into the infernal past of why such ghosts, eerie presence, and malevolent beings haunt the living, depicted in various origins since varying cultures first existed. Readers are drawn to the genre–to understand why ghosts exist–why they continue to haunt one’s dreams and feed on one’s fears–or if they are real or are simply the conjuring of the human mind. 

In her novel, “The Broken Girls”, St. James has masterfully created a suspense thriller fused with paranormal elements but these tropes are mere literary tools to expose the dangers of human faculties acting on pride, greed, and anger. It exposes human fragility and how brokenness either leads the way to redemption or toward self-destruction. The Idlewild Hall symbolizes an abyss where people can simply dump their sins away; where dark secrets are buried, left to rot and decay. It is a story of survival and the need to find closure when others seemed to have forgotten and laid to rest. Haunting and sad, but generously strengthened by the powerful force of love, friendship, and revenge, “The Broken Girls” is a masterfully written novel that encompasses varying fiction genres heralding Simone St. James as one of the greatest novelists of our time.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Simone St. James

Genre: Ghost Thriller/Horror Fiction

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Berkley; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (March 20, 2018)

ISBN-10: 0451476204

ISBN-13: 978-0451476203

Book Review: The Kill Club

Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.

Armed with an intriguing plot, “The Kill Club” by Wendy Heard depicts the true-crime scenario of murder-for-hire instigators.  Heard noted that none of the stories portrayed in her novel are fictional–that these contract killings are real and much more sinister than fiction.  

“The Kill Club” illustrates the provocation behind people who seek murder-for-hire running on lethal hate and desperation or frustrations from the social and judicial system.  These are people who have run out of options and have taken liberties to put an end to abuse or a lifetime of shame and suffering from fractured relationships. And then there are those motivated by greed, jealousy, or are just plain twisted.

As a thriller genre fanatic, I was immediately attracted to the book’s premise.  Armed with strong female leads, this book was a quick read from start to finish. It is the kind of story that makes you question how far can you go to protect someone or yourself from faulty individuals or from a defective society. Readers also get to inspect the motivation behind the novel’s antagonists who seem to justify creating the “Kill Club” as a solution, not an assassination, to a flawed judicial system. A chilling revelation nevertheless a truth that is as real as it is fictionalized.  

But the story is not all about murder.  Heard also tackled issues of social hierarchy–the demarcation between the rich and the poor, social injustices, religious fanaticism, and domestic abuse.   All of which pose bigger problems that almost always result in criminal acts. The novel is also a reflection of the fallibility of the social system that incessantly brings about violence deemed as the final refuge of the desperate, leaving crime problems insolvable.

A thriller that will keep you guessing until the end, “The Kill Club” is a social commentary novel that will appeal to the reader’s sense of justice, pondering upon concerns such as taking the law into one’s own hands and the justification of such acts.  

Save for the not-so-appealing aspects of the novel, the main premise is interesting enough and worthy of discussion.   Details such as the flimsy attempt to pass the novel as lesbian literature felt misplaced. The multiple twists and turns fell flat for me; the timeline was quite confusing, and the writing has been subpar at best.  The sudden emergence of more characters left no room for development. The motivation behind the Blackbird killings was a total letdown. I was expecting a grander scheme and a more believable and strategic discourse.  Now, what bothers me up to this point is the messy reasoning behind having someone do your dirty work only to return the favor. Isn’t the logic behind hiring someone to do the killing, is for you to be rid of blood in your hands?  As messed up as it is, “The Kill Club” may have failed to end on a high-octane note but it still had a good run from the onset.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Author: Wendy Heard

Genre: Mystery & Thriller / Women’s Psychological Fiction

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (December 17, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0778309037

ISBN-13: 978-0778309031

Book Review: The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Lisa Jewell’s seventeenth novel, “The Family Upstairs” was a lot to take in.  From the novel’s prologue up until the final chapter, I couldn’t put the book down.  It urges you to flip one more page until you find yourself a page left before the Acknowledgments.  Having read the book’s final lines, I found myself having to deal with the aftermath of emotional reverberations.

Lined with a gripping storyline, seared with Gothic elements and literary irony, Jewell has written a story of innocence lost and lives stolen and how those betrayed of their childhood would do anything to claim what was rightfully theirs.  

Jewell’s enigmatic and descriptive writing style is enough to hook you.  Her writing technique changes for every character that doesn’t just highlight the writing skill of the author but also helps set character behaviors apart.  

The multiple first-person POVs were expertly done balancing out the suspense as the readers go through each of the character’s narrative.  Jewell has written the chapters in such a way that she ends every chapter with a cliffhanger. The alternating POVs were laid out in a manner that responds to the baffling questions raised in the previous chapter.  Jewell has done a masterful job transitioning between dual timeframes that being transported into different scenes felt like a real palpable journey for the readers.

But unlike many other thriller novels, “The Family Upstairs” rejects the usual murder mystery trope found in most books of the same genre.  This novel offers its readers something else entirely: a narrative about getting back what was once lost. It is predominantly a novel about the relationship between parents and their children and how families differ from one another.   Several times throughout the novel I found myself rooting for a happy ending begging myself not to turn a page for fear of a darker plot twist. But the underlying thrill in settling for mystery novels asserts an irrevocable fact: the more sinister it gets, the better. 

Despite gaining mixed reviews, “The Family Upstairs” is one of the few novels that truly captivated me from start to finish.  It is riveting, twisted but metamorphic. It consumed me, scared me out of my wits but in the end, it made me understand how important family is.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery and Thriller

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Atria Books (November 5, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1501190105

ISBN-13: 978-1501190100

Book Review: Verity

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Prior to reading “Verity”, a romantic thriller by the bestselling author Colleen Hoover, I devoured her most recent book, “Regretting You”: a domestic and romance fiction narrative that I ultimately rated five stars.  Transitioning from a heart-wrenching romance story to a thriller, both from the same author, catapulted me into a series of emotions that transfixed my heart into danger mode.  

“Verity” is hands down unputdownable.  Colleen Hoover is known for her romance novels and for her to shift into different genres was a breath of fresh air and a sea change well worth the wait. It is one of those few mystery novels that will keep you on your toes and will leave you up all night.  The Gothic elements infused within her novel is enough to haunt its readers. But “Verity” is all these things and more. It is first and foremost a romance thriller although some would argue that the romantic element falls underneath the mystery and suspense Hoover’s narrative explores.  The disturbing imagery, gory details, and a somewhat allusion to E.L James’: “Fifty Shades of Grey” were all suspensefully built around Hoover’s compelling narrative.  

A word of caution though: thread this novel lightly as trigger warnings abound.  Unwanted pregnancy (abortion), child abuse, and murder are all vividly detailed and many times throughout the novel I wished I never had read parts of it.  It was that disturbing.  

The book held me spellbound on how the truth will unravel.  I swore this narrative kept me guessing right till its finale.  Though a riveting plot twist is highly expected of a suspense thriller, any prediction could go several ways.  The open-ended ending may baffle and unnerve most readers but I’d wager it’s what made the novel utterly controversial and haunting. 

Overall, Colleen Hoover’s “Verity” did not just appease my love for thrillers but it enkindled an insight into the enigma of womanhood and how desire and greed work concurrently leading to bad choices. A gripping tale of one strong female protagonist against another, “Verity” made me question if reality is indeed stranger than fiction.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romance Thriller

Length: 331 pages

Publisher: Independently published (December 10, 2018)

ISBN-10: 1791392792

ISBN-13: 978-1791392796

Book Review: Lock Every Door

When everything has been taken from you–your parents, your only sibling, your job, your boyfriend–which sums up just about your entire life–would you be willing to take anything offered your way in exchange for money and a temporary luxury?

“Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager follows the story of Jules Larsen who responded to an ad hiring an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, an upscale but concealed apartment building in Manhattan that houses only the rich and famous.  Jules apparently would accept anything that could provide her with food and shelter let alone housesit a luxurious apartment unit. Parentless and jobless, Jules was beyond belief in her acceptance to the Bartholomew. It was for Jules a lifesaver–a press away on a reset button that will make her forget about her tragic past and start life anew. 

But Jules suspected her predicament to being too good to be true.

As she unravels the truth about the Bartholomew — the real reason behind its reputation for secrecy — Jules finally comes face to face with her tragic fate.  After all, everything comes with a price.

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

POV, Writing Style and Atmosphere

The author immediately established the atmosphere of mystery by opening the novel set in the present day with Jules having encountered an accident.  This writing style conditions the reader of the threat that already happened with the protagonist and an ominous fact was established when she begged not to be returned to the Bartholomew. Sager utilized an immersive first-person POV for the protagonist and used direct and not overly elaborate sentences, but his use of descriptive imagery allowed the readers to imagine visual representations of the novel’s setting.   The dual timelines also proved advantageous setting the build-up for the novel’s plot twist. 

The author didn’t shy away from infusing gothic elements: the portent history of the Bartholomew, satanic cult, suicide, death, footsteps approaching, sinister objects: the dumbwaiter, diabolic symbols are just to name a few.  These elements gave the novel a darker atmosphere creating a sense of foreboding and unease.


(Stop at this point if you have not read the book)

There is so much to say about this novel that I cannot expressively put into words.  The mystery and suspense genre has become popular over the years because of its strong hook among readers.  But not all novels of the genre have exhibited the same level of well-structured chapters and riveting conclusions.  Only a few can create such a disturbing impact that long after you have read such novels, you find yourself going back to every chapter.  This is how I describe Riley Sager’s unputdownable book due to its sheer unpredictability.

I also can’t help but gush on Sager’s choice of tropes for his novel that just when you thought you have uncovered the cult holding the dark secrets of the Bartholomew, it will leave you breathless once again with another plot twist.  It was an exhilarating ride and this novel is deserving of the television series it scored with Paramount. 

Overall, “Lock Every Door” is a terrifying masterpiece and I’m not just referring to the build-up of suspense and mystery revealing whodunit as the novel’s culmination.  I am referring to the social relevance of Sager’s novel on Human Organ Trafficking and Social Inequality. Sager has raised awareness of the issues on a global scale — how illegal organ trade is real and has become a prevalent crime than we are possibly made aware of.  The exploitation behind existing organized crime syndicates that handle black market organ trading is more disturbing and macabre than any fictional narrative written on the topic. Moreso on the issue of how despairing people of affluence who needed immediate transplants, feel they are overly privileged and more entitled to live their lives, that they can get away with moral obligations.  Sager visibly demarcated the line between the wealthy and the underprivileged sectors by narrating the severe exploitation of those who are financially desperate and marginally poor as nothing but dispensable variables in the social hierarchy. In the end, Jules made a choice to put an end to the problem. In the real world, the issue of illegal organ trading will continue to proliferate as long as global inequality remains unresolved.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery and Thriller

Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Dutton (July 2, 2019)

ISBN-10:  1524745146

ISBN-13:  978-1524745141

Book Review: The Whisper Man

Life is brimming with bad people and equally bad situations and it is a parent’s job to protect his child from the unknown danger that lurks even in the safest of places.  This is the premise of “The Whisper Man” by Alex North, a story about a father and his son picking up the pieces and starting life anew from a tragic loss that came to pass their lives.  Tom Kennedy, emotionally burdened by the loss of his wife had been struggling with the difficulty of raising his seven-year-old son, Jake. Scarred by childhood memories, Tom does his best to be a doting father to his son, urging himself on until he could break the unseen barrier in their relationship.  Jake keeps mostly to himself, socially withdrawn from the world but emotionally intelligent for his age. Despite Tom’s efforts, he finds it hard to fill in the hole that Jake had reserved only for his mother. His son’s creation of an imaginary friend–his dependence and need for it– frustrates Tom’s desire for normalcy. With the prospect of moving into a  new home in Featherbank, Tom seeks to repair their lives. Prepared to turn a new leaf, Tom and Jake were ushered into the maddening truth of what transpired twenty years ago — the abduction and murder of five children and the arrest of a known serial killer, Frank Carter, referred to as “The Whisper Man”. As Tom bridges his relationship with his son, he finds himself reconnecting to a past he had wanted so much to forget. It all began when a shred of evidence connected to the Whisper Man was found in the strange house they now call home.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…


North’s writing made use of alternate Point of View (POV), shifting from a first POV for Tom’s character to a third person POV for Jake, Pete Willis, Francis Carter, and Amanda Beck.  The multiple narratives were written seamlessly providing the readers with much exhilarating anticipation for what’s to come next.  

The imagery depicted in North’s writing is palpable.  His writing style made use of a combination of simple and elaborate words, using short sentences and fragments.  His narrative is filled with visual imagery despite being an easy-read novel.  

North’s descriptive language, fused with Gothic elements such as the strange house, dark hallways,  supernatural element (Jake’s imaginary friend), nightmares, whispers in the night, and death, set the novel’s dark and creepy atmosphere. 

  • Father and son relationship
  • Reverberations of Trauma
  • Forgiveness

I have tons of sentiments about this book that I couldn’t quite place eloquently.  This novel created a huge buzz for some time, scoring a film adaptation deal optioned by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, and has made it to the final cut of Goodreads Best Mystery and Thriller category for 2019.  So far things have been going well for Alex North’s “The Whisper Man”, but the thing about most hyped novels is that once the expectations have been set on high, it conditions the readers to expect so much more. On the contrary, this novel didn’t just live up to my expectations; this one touched my heart and soul. It broke pieces of me here and there, feeling the exact same solace running through the vein of every character. There is so much more to this novel than the usual whodunit plot. North’s take on a mystery crime novel was not singled in on its plot as most books in the same genre have traversed.  This novel is much a character-driven plot as it is simply plot-driven.  

But the most remarkable aspect of this novel was how the author delved not just into the relationship between Tom and Jake but of Pete and Tom’s, and Frank and Francis’ relationship. The readers are presented with three differing kinship sculptured by character, social interventions, and tragedies.  North has reminded us of the repercussions of domestic violence, divorce, and in this case, the disturbing relationship between a serial killer and his son; the latter individualized by childhood trauma could very well have inherited his father’s psychotic traits. But North points out how individual choices can change the course of a person’s path.  Tom’s memories of his father’s drunkenness and indifference prompted him to aspire to a better version of himself. Francis Carter’s darker past attuned him to reverse the implications of what his father had done. He had morphed into becoming virtuous by kidnapping neglected children, to guide and nurture. But due to his apparent inheritance of his father’s deranged traits, Francis’ agitated temper and disagreement to lack of obedience, made him do things his father had done all those years ago.  The difference between Tom’s character and Francis’ sits on their individual choices. Even though both were altered by their dismal past, Tom did his best to be a father to his son, while Francis remained haunted by the horrors of his father’s perversion no matter how hard he tried to escape from it.


“The Whisper Man” did not delve much on the aspect of gore and police procedures as expected of a noir novel.  Despite its predictability, this book is a page-turner, a true class of its own. North gave us a moving narrative of a father’s love for his son despite his imperfections and limitations.  The heart of this novel is not the conclusion to the murders that happened in Featherbank, but how North came up with such compelling characters that are truly mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Alex North

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Celadon Books (August 20, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1250317991

ISBN-13: 978-1250317995