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!

5 star

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

This was one a friend suggested, and she was totally right about it! This is such an exciting thriller, and even though it is a tiny bit longer than the typical thriller I read, it really provided the experience I wanted, and so much more.

Jar of Hearts revolves around the protagonist, Georgina Shaw, who is a witness to the murder of her best friend Angela when she was 16. She alone knows the truth, and the book starts off with her testimony to put Calvin James in jail for the murder of Angela. Geo ends up in jail for a reduced sentence and the novel follows her journey before, during, and after prison, as well as flashbacks of the past she held so close to her heart for years. When more bodies start turning up, Kaiser, who was best friend with Georgina and Angela when they were young, is on the hunt for Calvin when the bodies turn up the same way Angela’s did. More and more of the truth comes out about the past as Geo continues to make her way through life as an ex-convict.

The story starts off with such an interest premise, where the murderer is kind of made clear from the very start and there is not really a mystery there. Yet it is still thrilling as Geo has to navigate her life from the top of a financially well-off company into prison for five years. The book is split into different sections and each is a slightly different time period as she enters jail, until she finally is set free. The characters are all very interesting (and somewhat mysterious) as more and more knowledge of the past comes forth through Geo’s perspective. This eventually sheds more and more light on the nature of everyone involved, leading up to the final climax.

The suspense was great in this book. Despite it being slightly longer, I was definitely hooked from the very first few pages, wanting to know how it all turns out in a book where the beginning starts off with a trial and a murder conviction. Also, it is clear that the whole truth didn’t come out at the trial, just enough to convict Calvin. It is this mystery that we slowly learn more and more about until the end where everyone’s perspective finally comes together to form the complete picture.

The gruesome things that happen in this book were also nothing short of horrifying, so that really added to the drama of it all. There was a surprising amount of romance-related material in the book too, not that it ever really got super explicit but the way it focuses on their relationships is noteworthy. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, though towards the end when more information was made available I did see a couple of things ahead of time. That being said I still wondered how it would all go down even if I knew the gist of what would happen, which for me is good enough.

There were some scientific(ish?) things in the book that really threw me for a loop, as a science major. There was just a slightly implausibility with the way it was handled, but putting my degree aside, assuming I can take what was said at face value, it is fine. I almost considered lowering the rating just for that, but decided to be more forgiving with it and gave it the full five points. I really did enjoy the story and it did have some nice twists and turns that really added to the drama, and it kept my attention all the way to the very end. It had very good pacing and the information came out at a good rate, which is the sign of a well-paced book.

Overall Recommendations

Jar of Hearts is a story of the past coming back to haunt our protagonist, Georgina, when the body of her best friend is finally found and she is forced to take a plea bargain to convict her former boyfriend and go to jail herself for five years. For years Geo had kept the secret of what happened deep in her heart, but the truth slowly re-surfaces, as more bodies are found, killed in the same manner as her friend all those years ago. Just how long can Geo run from the past, and what will happen when it all comes bubbling up to the surface? Full of intrigue, suspense, plenty of twists and turns, and a dash of romance, if those things are your jam, this is the book for you!

2.5 star

Review: Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

A bride’s dream honeymoon becomes a nightmare when a man with whom she’s had a regrettable one-night stand shows up in this psychological thriller from the author of Eight Perfect Murders.

Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something special and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband.

Don’t mind me as I continue on this spree of Swanson books. He really does have interesting premises, and so I can’t help but be curious as to how things will turn out. This one was a bit more predictable though, and perhaps because I’ve read similar books, I didn’t find it to be particularly thrilling.

Every Vow You Break revolves around Abigail who is slated to marry her very rich fiance. On a drunken night at her bachelorette party though, however, she ends up sleeping with a stranger, with whom she does not even exchange names. However, this stranger makes an appearance again over and over, and seems to have found Abigail, insisting that they shared something special and that she should go with him. A seemingly perfect honeymoon on a secluded island couldn’t possibly have room for trouble, right?

The characters in this book were overall fine. I had no complaints about their development, and for the most part, like most thrillers, the story revolves around Abigail and her perception of her husband and the stranger, as well as what is occurring on the honeymoon. The husband is obviously another key character, but I felt like more could have been done with his character in this story to add to the suspense and heighten the emotions.

I found the suspense to be a little bit lacking in this book. Maybe the truth of the matter was hidden until the end but it didn’t feel like the stakes were particularly high. It mostly just felt like there was a creepy guy on the loose who might come for you. Yet the guy says he’s in love with you so it doesn’t feel like a particular threat. He can only threaten with telling your husband about a one night stand back before you were married. While this wasn’t the sole source of suspense in this novel, it was a big driving force – just not one I particularly enjoyed.

The ending was also only okay. I’ve seen similar endings before (at least two books come to mind), and both times I did not like it. Safe to say I did not enjoy the third time either. There was just an element of implausibility that really caught me off guard, and didn’t quite satisfy me. Unfortunately, this was not the book for me.

Overall Recommendations

Every Vow You Break revolves around our protagonist Abigail, who seems to have it all when she meets and ends up marrying a very wealthy man. But catastrophe strikes when she has a one night stand with a stranger at her bachelorette party, and the stranger comes back to haunt her before and after her wedding, asking her to go away with him. Finally he even finds her on a secluded island on her honeymoon, where she quickly no longer feels safe… You can probably already imagine what will happen, and yes it does. If that appeals to you, then this may be the book for you.