4.5 star

Review: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

I always love a good closed-room mystery, and this was really no exception. I’m generally a fan of Lucy Foley’s work, and this one didn’t disappoint me—though I have heard mixed reviews from others.

The Paris Apartment takes place in…you guessed it, a fancy apartment in Paris. The neighbours we meet are certainly something, and above all, of course, suspicious. Just what is going on with these weird neighbours? Each one has their own story to hide, and it all seems to have something to do with Ben, the protagonist’s half-brother, who is missing from the very start. What is the connection between all the neighbours, including the concierge who always watches out front?

The characters were all fantastic. Each was so suspicious, mostly so deplorable and annoying that a reader’s natural biases start to come up, which is a fantastic play on tropes by the author. There were the more foil characters, and then there were the more complex characters that we see play out. However, it does not become immediately obvious who the perpetrator is because of who was focused on more. There was an appropriate level of character development and although it wasn’t a major factor in the development of the mystery, there was enough to satisfy the readers so that we could understand their motives and goals.

I personally felt the plot was excellent. There were so many twists and turns, some obvious, some not, but all equally surprising anyway. Having read many mysteries and thrillers, at this point, most things aren’t a straight-up surprise. But, it also means that the author is able to play on the “obvious” plot lines that I expect with their signals and red herrings. I also enjoy her writing style. Foley likes to do a lot of these short, parallel chapters to build effects and suspense, and that it something I enjoyed both in The Guest List and in this one. Just when I thought there was a reveal and all was solved, there was always so much more. This helped to create drive so that I did not get bored when I figured out one of the surprises in the book. I certainly didn’t see the final few surprises coming, and I had to keep re-wrapping my mind around it. There was one chapter that I think could have been re-ordered for a little bit more dramatic effect at the end but overall I thought it was really excellent how everything built up to the climax and denouement. I definitely didn’t see it coming fully.

Overall the mystery and thriller elements were good, with the slightly unreliable protagonist (but not too much), and the way every character seems shady, and how you just cannot trust anyone you meet. The result is a very exciting story which I plowed through quite quickly. The ending was also pretty exciting, and like I said, I didn’t really see it coming fully so I was pretty genuinely satisfied. I don’t expect endings to be surprising often, but rather I look more for the execution of the ending and how the author ties up certain loose ends (or doesn’t tie up certain loose ends) for a satisfying ending. I definitely enjoyed this one.

Overall Recommendations

The Paris Apartment is a typical closed-room mystery that takes place in a rich apartment. Jess moves to her half-brother’s beautiful apartment, although it seems like he has gone missing and is unable to receive her. So, of course, it is up to Jess to speak with all the neighbours and any contacts Ben might have had in order to figure out where he is. The more she looks, the more locked doors she finds—which means she’s getting closer, right? Just what is the mystery of this Paris apartment, and what lurks behind closed doors? Fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting, this one is sure to be for you if you like a good closed-room mystery novel!

3 star, YA

ARC Review: Lying in the Deep by Diana Urban

A juicy mystery of jealousy, love, and betrayal set on a Semester at Sea-inspired cruise ship, with a diverse cast of delightfully suspicious characters who’ll leave you guessing with every jaw-dropping twist.

After being jilted by her ex-boyfriend and best friend, Jade couldn’t be more ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—11 countries in 4 months, all from the luxurious Campus on Board ship—and to wedge an entire globe between her and the people who broke her heart.

But when Jade discovers the backstabbing couple are also setting sail, her obsession with them grows and festers, leading to a shocking murder. And as their friends begin to drop like flies, Jade and her new crush must race to clear her name and find the killer they’re trapped at sea with….before anyone else winds up in body bags.

Perfect for readers of Natalie D. Richards, E. Lockhart, and Karen McManus!

Overall Recommendation:

Lying in the Deep mostly delivers on what it promises: a tense mystery stuck on a ship with a killer. However, how it reaches the ending was not as unpredictable or compelling as I had hoped, especially with a protagonist I wasn’t sure I liked half the time. Perhaps I read too many mysteries or I’m starting to guess the out of the box scenarios far too often, but there was just something missing here that prevented me from loving it.

**Lying in the Deep comes out May 2, 2023**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

I’m starting to believe that I read far too many mysteries to be surprised by “twist” endings. Or perhaps I just think along the same lines as Diana Urban after reading all of her thrillers published so far.

Lying in the Deep advertises itself as a fast-paced, harrowing search for a killer onboard as time runs out before possibly more bodies drop. Everyone is a suspect, perhaps even the protagonist herself. I mean, unreliable narrators are a thing these days, right?

On paper, this book has everything going for it that would lead to a deep seated love for it. Travel? Check. Dead body mystery? Check. Some romance that may or may not be relevant but is still fun to have in a story? Check. Those are all great things that I enjoy. But execution connecting these elements are just as important.

The synopsis and prologue tells you quite early on what the mystery is and who is the one found dead. Unfortunately, it’s not until almost 50% of the way into the book that we get to this point of finding a dead body. For literally the first half of the book, we are getting the opportunity to “get to know all of the suspects onboard”. I understand the importance of setting the scene with a handful of newcomers who all may have a (hidden) motive against the person who ends up dying. But 50% of the book just seems largely too long for that.

It’s also not helpful that I found our protagonist, Jade, not super likable. While I empathize with her situation against her ex best friend and ex-boyfriend, this girl fantasizes far too much about killing them. When her new crush, Felix, comments about her propensity to wake up and choose violence, it’s not entirely untrue. She gives me “unreliable protagonist” vibes. I wondered half the time if the information we are getting about the situation that led to her breakup with the two closest people in her life was missing important details.

Once the mystery does get underway, it felt rushed. Unlike others who have read this book early, I couldn’t get into the tense atmosphere so easily. Yes, there were plenty of suspects onboard but I never felt Jade was in true danger as she ran headlong into solving the mystery herself. Any tense feelings came from the countdown to solve the mystery before the boat made port and all the evidence would be handed over to the local authorities.

For the romance, I understand the chemistry between Jade and Felix but it’s kind of hard to root for a couple when he is also technically a suspect. I also felt the feelings they developed for one another was rather fast. The situations between them were not many prior to the events leading to the murder, plus Jade was mostly preoccupied with her ex whom she still harbored complicated feelings for. I didn’t dislike their romance, but I wouldn’t say I shipped it (ha ha).

The main thing that makes this mystery stand out from others in its genre is the Campus on Board setting. I really did enjoy this. A little bit of travel descriptions were even included for London and Lisbon which makes me crave travelling all the more. I didn’t expect such detailed touristy scenes set in these cities – I thought everything was mostly focused on their time on the boat – so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these European locales through their eyes. It makes me wish I could’ve done schooling in such a way. You’re never too old to continue learning.

As with all mysteries, I don’t want to say too much about the ending, but I will say that it wasn’t as unpredictable (to me at least) as it seemed. I think I guessed the twist all along but was hoping to be proved wrong. It will shock some people, but I unfortunately was unable to enjoy it in such a manner. If you don’t manage to guess how it all ends, I think it makes the mediocre journey to the ending worthwhile nonetheless. I will always applaud Diana Urban’s out of left field endings, though I have come to expect them. Whether the journey to the end is important to you, or the ending and its twists trump all, Lying in the Deep does offer something unique to readers, even if it isn’t the mystery.

2.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Someone Is Always Watching by Kelley Armstrong

Blythe and her friends—Gabrielle, and brother and sister Tucker and Tanya—have always been a tight friend group, attending a local high school and falling in and out of love with each other. But an act of violence has caused a rift between Blythe and Tucker . . . and unexpected bursts of aggression and disturbing nightmares have started to become more frequent in their lives. 

The strange happenings culminate in a shocking event at school: Gabrielle is found covered in blood in front of their deceased principal, with no memory of what happened. 

Cracks in their friendship, as well as in their own memories, start appearing, threatening to expose long-forgotten secrets which could change the group’s lives forever. How can Blythe and her friends trust each other when they can’t even trust their own memories?

Overall Recommendation:

Someone Is Always Watching is more of a dystopian than a mystery as we dig into the secrets buried inside of a group of teenagers who start noticing disturbing behaviour among themselves. It’s different than what I would have thought the story would be about initially. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, I didn’t connect well with any of the characters, and the overall mystery was less central to the plot than expected. I think the world of Kelley Armstrong but this wasn’t among my favourites from her.

**Someone Is Always Watching comes out April 11, 2023**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

I’ve been a Kelley Armstrong fan for a long time now, having the pleasure of meeting her when I was in high school when she started writing YA novels. With that said, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of her writing styles and genres.

This book changed things. And I’m not entirely certain how I feel about it even after waiting a little while to write this review.

We follow mainly one girl, Blythe, in this story, but we’re immediately immersed in this friend group that grew up together in a small town due to their families’ connections to the organization that employs them all. I’m not sure about you, but immediately that raises all sorts of red flags in my head. Perhaps I’ve read far too many dystopians, but this is precisely more the genre this book lands in than the mystery of what is happening with these teenagers.

I won’t say that the “mystery” relating to what’s been going with Blythe and friends, their loss of memory of strange occurrences and direct involvement in suspicious deaths/behaviors, was all too hard to guess. The only thing that may have took me slightly by surprise is the identity of who has been leaving Blythe cryptic messages about her and the others’ past. It definitely got more predictable as the story went along but that was one intriguing aspect of the story.

For a shorter length book, the pacing did leave me wanting more. It wasn’t as suspenseful as I had hoped because the mystery wasn’t all too hard to predict. But what makes a book beyond its plot are the characters, especially if the plot didn’t drive the story as much as one would expect. Would I say the characters were beloved in any way then? No, unfortunately I really can’t.

Right off the bat we are introduced to Blythe and Tucker, their younger selves, as individuals with a darker side who wants to cause a little destruction. Fast forward to their older selves, Blythe has tried hard to rein in her darker side and Tucker has a reputation for being dangerous, even from the grown ups around him. I’m all for having well-rounded morally gray characters but it was hard to find the sides of Blythe and Tucker to love.

The others in the friend group we follow sometimes but not in depth. Tanya doesn’t display much emotion, and is even characterized to have sociopathic tendencies. The only person she can fathom loving is her brother, Tucker. Sure, that’s great at least, but doesn’t inspire me to want to know her better. Gabrielle was the first one of them to display a loss of control and acting erratically so knowing her normal self wasn’t really something that was explored.

Then it seemed that a romance was being pushed between Blythe and Tucker. I’m sorry, but this forbidden relationship felt too forced in some ways. Sure, they may have both loved one another since they were young but could not be together because Tucker was “dangerous”. However, making their love more of a central piece of the story didn’t make one difference to me. So much of the focus was on what is currently happening to them and their search for the truth that having this romance appear felt disconcerting. I love romances in stories but this was more of an add-on. And all I could feel was apathy.

All this being said, I love Kelley’s stories regardless of my lack of enthusiasm for this one. Perhaps my expectation coming in was for the mystery to be more central and shocking. If you’re new to Kelley’s writings, I will say you should come in open minded, and this book is just one among the breadth of her stories in the YA sphere.