3.5 star, YA

Review: Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The brand new unmissable crime thriller from Holly Jackson, best-selling, award-winning author of the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder trilogy.

Eight hours.
Six friends.
One sniper . . .

Eighteen year old Red and her friends are on a road trip in an RV, heading to the beach for Spring Break. It’s a long drive but spirits are high. Until the RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no mobile phone reception and nobody around to help. And as the wheels are shot out, one by one, the friends realise that this is no accident. There’s a sniper out there in the dark watching them and he knows exactly who they are. One of the group has a secret that the sniper is willing to kill for.

A game of cat-and-mouse plays out as the group desperately tries to get help and to work out which member of the group is the target. Buried secrets are forced to light in the cramped, claustrophobic setting of the RV, and tensions within the group will reach deadly levels. Not everyone will survive the night.



Overall Recommendation:

Hard to compete with the super high bar Holly Jackson’s bestselling series brought, but Five Survive holds up well enough as a locked room type thriller. Secrets were fun to guess and the ultimate mastermind behind what should’ve been a fun road trip wasn’t immediately obvious. Kudos for branching out in the genre but I did wish for more suspense as there wasn’t really enough stakes for it.

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3 star, YA

Review: Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.



Overall Recommendation:

Nine Liars continues to demonstrate the beauty of a stand-alone mystery in this series following amateur detective Stevie Bell. A bit of fun sightseeing in London plus a cast of 9 adults who are all suspect of the mysterious deaths among their own group makes for an entertaining read. Slow at times but it picks up in places that propel me to continue. A solid mystery concept but with a subpar romance at the heart.

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4 star

Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?



This was another one that was recommended by one of my friends who shares the same tastes as me. I believe she mentioned that there were some mixed reviews about this book, but I personally found that it was pretty good! Overall quite plausible, and the story is very sad, and dark at times but not too overbearingly so. It was just the right amount of dark for a sad story, though I’ll get into a few more details later about that.

The Night Swim is a story that has a few elements to it. Our main protagonist, Rachel, is the latest hit in true crime podcasts, having unearthed decade-old cold cases successfully while podcasting about it. Her latest case takes place in the small town of Neapolis, where everyone knows everyone, and there is a rape trial going on. At the same time, a girl seeks Rachel’s help solving a desperate mystery from her past that was never solved. Rachel investigates both, and it becomes clear that the town hides many more secrets than it first shows, and Rachel wonders what will happen in the end at the trial and with this girl.

The characters in this book were pretty good. Nothing to really speak of in the character growth/development department though I think that can be rare for thriller/mystery novels. Essentially, most people are exactly how you’d expect them to be, and that paints the air of suspicion in a certain light and really frames the story. If people were changing all the time, it might be too hard to follow. This is one such novel where there are numerous characters from the past and present, and so most of them do remain static as the story progresses to reveal the ultimate truths. Of course, more and more is revealed about certain characters so they “grow” in that way.

The plot is fairly interesting. Yes, there is the classic protagonist butting her nose into the past and in the present to dig for her podcast, which is classic. But in my opinion that’s where the common tropes end. The use of the podcast is very interesting, and we really do get to listen (read) through each episode as she goes through the trial and addresses her readers. The implausibility here is probably attending a trial all day while recording a podcast in the evening, that sounds crazy. But it was cool to follow along with the podcast. While there were suspense elements (as to be expected in a mystery novel), the podcast really toned down a lot of the suspense, so if you’re looking for a true crime creepy mystery, this was totally not the vibe here.

The ending was overall good. Perhaps a little bit too convenient in how everything tied together, but I certainly didn’t hate it. In fact, as I was reading it, I was fairly happy nodding along to what was a very simplistic ending. However, upon further reflection I’m not sure it was really the best way to just have things work out, but again, it was far from “magically” working out so I’ll give it a pass there. I overall really enjoyed reading a book in this kind of format, and the tying together of two timelines (of different characters!) I felt was pretty well done.

Trigger warnings of course for rape and sexual assault, and some parts did get quite into the weeds (though nothing too graphic). I overall felt it was handled pretty well, the subject was quite objectively approached and really urged readers to think about the standards that are in the justice system. Delicately handled yet still got to the truth, I felt that the author could have pushed it even further, but I don’t have any qualms with how it was handled – I certainly felt frustrated for the victim!

Overall Recommendations

The Night Swim is a story of our protagonist making her true crime podcast, this time about a rape trial. At the same time, Rachel also researches into the past of this town in the cover-up of a murder 25 years past. As the trial drags on, the town (and her listeners) both get heated all around the subject of rape and the double standards it imposes. Follow along in this journey as the past and present collide, and the trial comes up to its spectacular finish. It isn’t the most suspenseful and thrilling novel, but it certainly executes its murder mystery element well. Hope you enjoy!