Loading...

Follow Crime by the Book on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
Author Q&A: Alex Dahl THE HEART KEEPER | Available now from Berkley

Some books stick with you long after you’ve turned their final page. For me, Alex Dahl’s newest suspense novel THE HEART KEEPER was such a book—and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Alex to CBTB today to discuss her intense, emotionally-resonant new release with us! If you’re not yet familiar with Alex Dahl’s work, consider this the perfect opportunity to dip into her world. Dahl is a Norwegian author whose books bridge the gap between Scandinavian sensibility and modern, razor-sharp psychological suspense. Dahl’s writing is easy to devour, but it’s got very sharp teeth; her books put womanhood under the microscope, wrapping resonant social commentary up in binge-worthy suspense plots. Dahl’s debut novel THE BOY AT THE DOOR released in the U.S. last year, and this week, she’s back. In THE HEART KEEPER, Dahl explores the powerful force of a mother’s love in the face of tragedy—and considers what happens when that tragedy drives an ordinary person to do unthinkable things. THE HEART KEEPER is in many ways a quiet novel - it’s not a story of rip-roaring action or shocking violence - but its underlying intensity and emotional charge make it utterly unputdownable. I loved Dahl’s newest novel, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask her a few of my most pressing questions about it!

I’m delighted to share my Q&A with Alex Dahl on CBTB today! In this post, you can learn more about THE HEART KEEPER, its inspiration, its sympathetic-yet-unhinged protagonist, and a whole lot more. Many thanks to Alex Dahl for answering my questions, and to Dahl’s U.S. publisher for facilitating this Q&A!

THE HEART KEEPER by Alex Dahl Book Details:

Critically acclaimed author Alex Dahl explores how love can turn darkly sinister when a desperate mother looks to reconnect with her lost daughter in this riveting Norwegian set psychological suspense novel.

Two mothers. Two daughters. One heart.

When Alison's beloved daughter Amalie drowns, her world turns impenetrably dark. Alison tries to hold it together throughout the bleak Fall, but in the darkest days of the Norwegian Winter she completely falls apart.

In another family, Amalie's passing is a new beginning. After years of severe health problems, young Kaia receives a new heart on the morning after Amalie drowns. Her mother Iselin has struggled to raise Kaia on her own and now things are finally looking up. She's even made an affluent new friend who's taken a special interest in her and her daughter.

Alison knows she shouldn't interfere, but really, she's just trying to help Iselin and Kaia. She can give them the life they never had, and by staying close to them, she can still be with her daughter. Kaia is just like her, and surely, something of Amalie must live on in her. As her grief transforms into a terrifying obsession, Alison won't let anything stop her from getting back what she has lost.

The Heart Keeper By Alex Dahl

Author Q&A: Alex Dahl THE HEART KEEPER

Crime by the Book: First things first, thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to discuss your newest release, The Heart Keeper! I’m such a fan, and am thrilled to have you joining us today. In your own words, what is The Heart Keeper about?

Alex Dahl: Thank you for having me! Very excited about the release of The Heart Keeper. The novel tells the parallel stories of two mothers and a young child in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Alison has lost her beloved daughter, Amalie, and Amalie's heart has been donated to Iselin's daughter, Kaia, who has been sick since infancy. Alison's world has turned impenetrably dark, whereas Iselin and Kaia's is gradually growing lighter. Meanwhile, Alison's sensitive teenage stepson, Oliver, mentions the notion of cell memory to Alison and a glimmer of hope is lit. Could it be that something of Amalie remains in whomever received her donated organs? Then, the identity of the recipient is coincidentally revealed to Alison, and she can't resist but strike up contact with Iselin and Kaia...

CBTB: The Heart Keeper is a story brimming with raw emotion. What was your inspiration for this novel?

AD: The idea for the book came to me like a bolt of lightning. I had actually planned to write something very different, but I knew I just had to write The Heart Keeper. It was Alison's raw grief and eventual descent into madness that resonated with me- I wanted to write a character who was actually a resourceful, conscientious, functioning human being whose circumstances drive her to madness.

CBTB: The Heart Keeper follows two women, Alison and Iselin, whose paths cross under tragic circumstances. How would you describe these women to someone meeting them for the first time?

AD: Alison is quite worldly and sophisticated. She has traveled extensively, established a successful career as a features journalist and took her time to choose a life partner. Her life is comfortable and stable when disaster strikes. Iselin, on the other hand, is very young, and hasn't had it easy. She came from a depressing place and a dysfunctional family, only to get into a top art school in Paris. In her second semester, she finds herself pregnant with a casual fling who doesn't want to know, and ends up returning to Norway where Kaia is born gravely ill. In the present, she is wary and downtrodden after years of financial and emotional strain, but things are looking up for her- she is reconnecting with her art ambitions, and Kaia has received a donor heart, drastically improving her health.

CBTB: I was fascinated to find that, even though Alison is clearly a woman making terrible choices, I felt sympathetic towards her, too. Was this intentional on your part? Did you feel any sympathy for Alison while you were writing her character?

AD: Absolutely. I really wanted Alison to be someone who was relatable, even when her choices become increasingly questionable. I felt so much empathy for Alison. I really understood her need to connect with Kaia in the belief that something of her lost child could linger within her still-beating heart.

CBTB: You are Norwegian, and your psychological suspense novels are set in Norway – but interestingly, the character of Alison is an American who has settled in Oslo! Why did you want to make Alison a bit of an “outsider”?

AD: I am half American and half Norwegian, and so have always had the 'outsider' perspective, both in Norway and in the US. I also wanted to bring in the subtle challenges sometimes found in cross-cultural relationships. And as the plot gathers pace, I wanted Alison to be quite untethered and able to pursue her obsession without too many family members or other ties likely to stop her. I deliberately made certain aspects of Alison quite like myself- I found that I needed to, in order to go all the way into her profoundly dark mind with her while still understanding her choices.

CBTB: Something that really interested me both in this book and in your 2018 release, The Boy at the Door, is how your novels speak to the experience of womanhood in the modern day. In The Heart Keeper, the experience of motherhood is put under the microscope. What do you hope to communicate to readers about motherhood through this story?

AD: I found myself reflecting on my own experiences of motherhood while writing this book, and really identified with both Iselin and Alison. I have, at various times in my life, experienced substantial common ground with both of them. My son, who is now almost 13, almost died of meningitis and sepsis at 6 days old. He spent several weeks on life support in the intensive care unit and wasn't, at one point, expected to make it. His health was very poorly for several years after, but is now entirely, miraculously unscathed. While I was writing The Heart Keeper, memories of that very traumatic time really came back for me. Writing this book was, on many levels, very therapeutic and personal for me. I was conscious of wanting to handle the fears associated with parenthood in a sensitive way, and drew on my own experiences. I have also experienced life as a single mother, and wanted to show Iselin as resourceful and ambitious, and ultimately able to change her circumstances.

“Writing this book was, on many levels, very therapeutic and personal for me. I was conscious of wanting to handle the fears associated with parenthood in a sensitive way, and drew on my own experiences.” —Alex Dahl

CBTB: This isn’t an overtly violent crime novel, but it’s a story absolutely brimming with tension and sinister suspense. What ingredients do you feel make for effective suspense in a crime novel?

AD: I believe in characters that make you believe in them, whether or not they are 'good'. I like building tension gently, interspersed with occasional more explosive plot developments. I like to build my work so that the reader can construct many possible outcomes in their minds, and hopefully, a mounting sense of dread...

CBTB: The Heart Keeper alternates between chapters narrated by Alison and chapters narrated by Iselin – a technique I absolutely loved. I’m so curious, how did you go about writing these chapters? For example, did you write all of Alison’s chapters first, and then go back and add in Iselin?

AD: I did write them alternately. At one point, this became difficult as I needed full focus on each character separately to really know them and their trajectory, so I then used a separate document to put all their sections consecutively together, making sure it was cohesive and filling in the blanks, before splitting them back up again, and layering them in the right order. I did the same with Cecilia, Annika and Tobias in The Boy at the Door, and most recently, my next novel, Playdate (2020).

CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime novels you’ve recently read and loved? (And if not, what kinds of novels do you typically gravitate towards?)

AD: While I do enjoy thrillers and crime fiction, I tend to read fairly different books to the ones I write. I like my fiction sad and beautiful, with interesting locations and myriad historical references! My favorite reads of the last year were All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Great House by Nicole Krauss, Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Next up are London Lies Beneath by Stella Duffy, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and a re-read of Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky. I also want to get serious about reading some more classics! Dostoyevsky is an old favorite from my student years that I'd quite like to revisit.

CBTB: What are you working on next?

AD: I am currently editing my next book, Playdate. I wanted to do a slightly different take on a 'child gone missing book', and challenge the perceptions of who is good and bad, right and wrong. It explores main themes such as vengeance, karma, justice, and again- motherhood and loss. It is told through four points of view and is set in Norway and the French Pyrenees. I am really excited about it! I am also in the very early stages of feeling out the contours of the book after that.

Many thanks to Alex Dahl for answering my questions, and to Berkley for arranging this Q&A! THE HEART KEEPER is now available at your favorite bookstore or library.

Book Details:

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Berkley (July 16, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0451491815

ISBN-13: 978-0451491817

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Author Q&A: Sandie JonesTHE FIRST MISTAKE

Still on the hunt for the perfect domestic thriller to bring on your next vacation? Look no further: Sandie Jones’ THE FIRST MISTAKE is the beach read for you. Twisty and shocking, THE FIRST MISTAKE takes a relatively familiar suspense setup - a wife who fears her spouse is being unfaithful - and pushes it in addictive, jaw-dropping new directions. Sandie Jones made a splash with her debut novel The Other Woman, which was a selection for Reese Witherspoon’s book club and a New York Times bestseller… but I actually loved THE FIRST MISTAKE even more. This book is a perfect example of what I like to call “popcorn reading”: an utterly entertaining story that you’ll want to binge-read in one or two sittings. Fans of B.A. Paris, J.P. Delaney, and Shari Lapena will absolutely love the domestic drama, plot twists, and chilling suspense Sandie Jones serves up in THE FIRST MISTAKE. I’m thrilled to welcome Sandie Jones to CBTB today to talk all things THE FIRST MISTAKE! In this blog post, you’ll find all the details on Sandie’s newest release, an excerpt from my review of this deliciously addictive suspense read, and, of course, my Q&A with Sandie.

Huge thanks to Sandie Jones for answering my questions about her newest release, and to the team at Minotaur Books for facilitating this interview! THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie Jones is available now at your favorite bookseller.

THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie Jones About the Book:

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced…

From CBTB’s Review:

Sandie Jones made a splash last summer with her debut suspense novel THE OTHER WOMAN, a New York Times bestseller and a pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club—and she’s back this summer, and better than ever, with THE FIRST MISTAKE. A juicy, page-turning story of marital secrets, THE FIRST MISTAKE takes a familiar plot - a wife who suspects her husband might be hiding something from her - and turns it on its head. Following Alice, her husband Nathan, and her best friend Beth, THE FIRST MISTAKE unravels a layered story of deceit and betrayal… and I’m betting even the most seasoned suspense reader will be genuinely shocked by the twists author Sandie Jones has in store. Sophomore novels have a reputation for being particularly tricky to get right, but Sandie Jones has executed hers effortlessly; I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s THE OTHER WOMAN, but I liked THE FIRST MISTAKE even more. This book is pure pleasure reading. For readers of fan-favorite domestic thrillers Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris and Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison, THE FIRST MISTAKE is the perfect beach read: a story of what happens when happily ever after goes wrong. | Read the Full Review

The First Mistake By Sandie Jones

Author Q&A: Sandie JonesTHE FIRST MISTAKE

Crime by the Book: Thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to tell us about your brand-new psychological suspense novel, The First Mistake! In your own words, what is this book about?

Sandie Jones: The First Mistake is essentially a novel about trust, questioning whether we ever know anybody well enough to truly be able to trust them, whether that be a partner or our best friend. We have to be able to trust people, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to live our lives, but it is so often misplaced and this novel explores that in the extreme.

CBTB: Your debut suspense novel The Other Woman dealt with a fraught relationship between a woman and her soon-to-be mother-in-law, and now The First Mistake deals with a similarly ordinary setup: a wife who discovers her husband might be hiding something from her. I love how your books begin with these relatable premises! Do you find yourself drawing inspiration for your books from real life?

SJ: Everything I write about is drawn from real-life inspiration. I love writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, so any one of us could find ourselves between the lines on the page. The Other Woman was borne out of conversations I had with friends who were in a similar situation to Emily, albeit not as sinister! And the situation Alice finds herself in The First Mistake is all too relatable as well, if not for ourselves, but someone we may know.

CBTB: The First Mistake centers around a woman named Alice, her husband Nathan, and her best friend Beth. How would you describe these characters to someone meeting them for the first time?

SJ: From the outset, I think all three of them are perceived to be the regular characters we all know. Alice is a frazzled mum, who’s trying to juggle her hectic home life with running a successful business. Nathan comes across as a considerate husband, who only has Alice’s best interests at heart and Beth is the best friend we all wish we had; feisty and quick to dish out well-meaning advice, yet when it comes to her own affairs, she’s not quite so self-assured.

CBTB: Alice takes center stage in The First Mistake. How would you describe Alice's character arc over the course of this story?

SJ: Alice endures every gamut of emotion in this novel, from finding love with her soulmate and first husband Tom, to becoming a shadow of her former self when she tragically loses him in a skiing accident. When Nathan comes along, she is at the bottom of the well, but slowly, over time, she begins to put the pieces of herself back together again, only to suffer a major confidence crisis again a few years down the line. This is about her finding the strength and resolve she needs to battle her demons once and for all.

“Everything I write about is drawn from real-life inspiration. I love writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, so any one of us could find ourselves between the lines on the page.” —Sandie Jones

CBTB: The First Mistake falls into the domestic suspense genre. What do you think makes the domestic suspense genre so popular? Why are ordinary relationships between spouses such good fodder for suspense stories?

SJ: I think it’s because it’s relatable. With domestic suspense, we all know someone like the character in the story, or know a relationship similar to the one we’re reading about, so it’s especially intriguing to see how it’ll play out. Thankfully most real-life scenarios don’t end in murder, but I have to say, since I started writing, not a day has gone past when I don’t think that fact is stranger than fiction!

CBTB: This new book of yours is delightfully twisty and shocking—I was blindsided more than once in this thriller! How do you go about plotting such a twisty story? Do you know how you want all the twists to play out when you begin writing?

SJ: I have absolutely no idea what my twists are going to be and how they’re going to play out before I start writing! They just present themselves to me as I go along, but even I’m surprised at how depraved my mind can be!

CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you enjoy reading crime fiction as well? If so, could you share with us a few crime / suspense books you’ve recently read and loved?

SJ: I do love reading suspense books, moreover actual crime and it’s the genre I tend to naturally gravitate towards. A recent find was The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North which left me breathless, though I can’t reveal why! Outside of my preferred genre, I read Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce which I thoroughly enjoyed.

CBTB: Last but certainly not least, what are you working on next?

SJ: I’m writing my third novel, a domestic suspense story focusing on the often troublesome relationship between sisters. It’s looking like it could go a little darker than my previous novels, though I hope there will still be light-hearted moments and a little British humour thrown in!

Many thanks to Sandie Jones for answering my questions about her newest release! THE FIRST MISTAKE is available now.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 11, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250192021

ISBN-13: 978-1250192028

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

KNIFE by Jo Nesbø

Series: Harry Hole Series

Alfred A. Knopf; 7/9/19

CBTB Rating: 5/5

The Verdict: a must-read, a strong contender for my new favorite Nesbø book

Disclaimer: I work for Alfred A. Knopf, Jo Nesbø’s US publisher. I typically do not review the books I’m working on here on CBTB, but given that Nesbø has been such an integral part of this blog (and of my reading life prior to starting CBTB!), I’m making an exception for this one!

I never re-read crime books… unless it’s a novel by Jo Nesbø, and then all bets are off. As I write this review, I’ve already read Nesbø’s newest - and arguably best - crime novel KNIFE twice, and between me and you, I’ll probably read it again before the year is out. A new Nesbø novel is always a cause for celebration (bonus when it’s released right after my birthday, as KNIFE was this year!), but KNIFE is something really special. It’s got everything Nesbø readers have come to expect from Scandinavia’s reigning crime fiction king: a layered plot, a gritty atmosphere, immersive pacing, plenty of very convincing red herrings, and, of course, our beloved troubled detective Harry Hole. But KNIFE is a departure from its immediate series predecessors, too, and it’s here that KNIFE really shines. By dialing back on the overt gore that defined 2017’s The Thirst, Nesbø gives his razor-sharp prose and superb character development room to shine in KNIFE. This is undoubtedly Nesbø’s darkest story yet, and it’s also his most emotionally affecting - a potent combination that will get under your skin as much as it will keep you turning pages. Nesbø is at his best when putting Norwegian detective Harry Hole through his worst, and KNIFE might just be the best installment yet in this exceptional crime series. Nothing will be the same for Harry - or Harry’s loyal readers - after KNIFE.

Plot Details:

Brilliant, audaciously rogue police officer, Harry Hole from The Snowman and The Thirst,is back and in the throes of a new, unanticipated rage--once again hunting the murderer who has haunted his entire career.

Harry Hole is not in a good place. Rakel--the only woman he's ever loved--has ended it with him, permanently. He's been given a chance for a new start with the Oslo Police but it's in the cold case office, when what he really wants is to be investigating cases he suspects have ties to Svein Finne, the serial rapist and murderer who Harry helped put behind bars. And now, Finne is free after a decade-plus in prison--free, and Harry is certain, unreformed and ready to take up where he left off. But things will get worse. When Harry wakes up the morning after a blackout, drunken night with blood that's clearly not his own on his hands, it's only the very beginning of what will be a waking nightmare the likes of which even he could never have imagined.

Before we dig into my thoughts on KNIFE, let’s start at the very beginning. The most commonly-asked question I’ve received about Nesbø’s newest release is: can KNIFE be read as a standalone? My answer is twofold: yes, it absolutely can be, but you may also wish to play a bit of series catch-up after you devour Nesbø’s newest — it’s that good. As always with the Harry Hole series, the investigations central to this story are self-contained; any background information you might need as a newcomer you’ll find included in KNIFE, and the mysteries central to this story are introduced and solved within this book’s pages. That being said, it’s always true of any series that you will understand its characters and their developmental arcs best if you’ve read the series in chronological order. If you’d like to start the Harry Hole series at the beginning, I would recommend starting with Book 3, The Redbreast, and then working your way through; if, on the other hand, you prefer to start a bit closer to KNIFE, I would recommend beginning with Book 7, The Snowman, and reading from there. Nesbø is a pro at making his books accessible to newcomers no matter where said newcomers choose to dip in, but his books are also so good, I’m betting just reading one won’t be enough for you!

If there’s one author whose books have been central to CBTB, it’s Jo Nesbø. Nesbø’s internationally bestselling Harry Hole series became an instant-favorite for me when I first discovered it on a trip to Norway years ago, and to this day, it’s my absolute favorite crime series out there. Nesbø’s books are the cream of the crop when it comes to dark, gritty police procedurals, and KNIFE is no exception. In KNIFE, readers find series protagonist Harry Hole at his lowest: his beloved wife Rakel has kicked him out, and his oldest enemy - his addiction to alcohol - has reared its ugly head. As KNIFE opens, readers find Harry waking with a ferocious hangover, his memory of the night before clouded by alcohol. And, to make matters worse, there’s blood on his hands — and it’s not his own. What trouble could Harry have gotten into the night prior? As revelations come to light about a heartbreaking crime that occurred during Harry’s blackout, Nesbø begins to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of both his readers and his protagonist. Could Harry be capable of evil? KNIFE’s greatest trick, then, is to turn one of modern crime fiction’s most shrewd investigators on himself. Harry soon finds himself venturing down an unthinkable rabbit hole of deceit and tragedy, puzzling together a crime with ramifications that hit closer to home than anything he has faced before. Nesbø is at his best here: Harry’s raw, visceral emotion will break the hearts of even the most toughened crime fiction readers, and the layered intricacy of this subplot will keep readers constantly wrongfooted until the novel’s final jaw-dropping reveal.

True to form, Nesbø doesn’t limit himself to just one central crime in KNIFE, and readers who love an intricate procedural will find so much to love about the multiple mysteries that Nesbø masterfully weaves together here. Alongside Harry’s desperate investigation into his own actions, Nesbø also pits our protagonist against a villain from his past: Svein Finne, a repugnant and genuinely evil character whose stomach-turning proclivities put him among the ranks of some of crime fiction’s most frightening antagonists. As a young police officer, Harry was responsible for arresting Svein Finne and sending him to prison, but in KNIFE, Finne has served his time and been released — and Harry is convinced he’s back to his old (horrific) ways. Desperate to lock Finne away once and for all before he can come after those Harry loves, Harry begs his superiors to release him from his job at the cold case office and put him on the Finne case. In short, stomach-turning chapters, Nesbø injects KNIFE with little glimpses into what Finne is actually doing with his newfound freedom… and readers will be terrified by what they discover. KNIFE is not for the faint of heart, and Finne’s actions are deeply, genuinely repulsive, delivering some of the book’s most lastingly frightening scares. Nesbø masterfully weaves the Finne plotline into KNIFE’s larger story, crafting a tapestry of visceral crime writing that will stay with you long after you turn the book’s final page. KNIFE is huge in scope, moving between mysteries, back in time, and between numerous secondary characters, but Nesbø’s precision of plotting makes it eminently readable and engrossing from first to last.

Writing a page-turning thriller with sound plotting is a feat in and of itself, but what elevates KNIFE - and Nesbø’s books in general - above their peers is the big, beating heart at their core. Nowhere in the Harry Hole series is its humanity on better display than in KNIFE. Beyond its chilling crimes, gritty atmosphere, and layered police investigations, KNIFE is a book about love lost. Harry’s emotional turmoil is an electric undercurrent to this story; his grief over the loss of Rakel, the woman who made his heart whole, is palpable. Readers will be hard-pressed not to weep alongside Harry as he takes stock of the personal losses he suffers throughout this story. And beyond Harry, the secondary characters Nesbø crafts and revisits in KNIFE are just as vividly wrought. KNIFE has a huge cast of characters; returning favorites including Kaja Solness, Katrine Bratt, and Bjørn Holm, as well as a number of newcomers with backgrounds as compelling as the mysteries in which they are embroiled. Nesbø’s sharp eye for human behavior and psychology give the men and women who fill this book’s pages depth and authenticity, lending KNIFE an emotional heft that far surpasses that of any Harry Hole novel yet.

KNIFE is vintage Nesbø in all the best ways. By leaning away from the overt violence of series installments like The Thirst, Nesbø gives his newest crime novel space to shine for its emotional heft, psychological insight, and layered, precise plotting, not just for its visceral scares — though it certainly has those to offer, too. Beloved series protagonist Harry Hole has never had it quite as bad as he does in KNIFE, and it makes for heart-wrenching, visceral crime writing of the highest order. KNIFE is Nordic Noir at its finest; the newest, and arguably best, novel from the reigning king of Scandinavian crime fiction is that of an author at the top of his game. The only downside? Now I’ve got to be patient and start another countdown for the next Jo Nesbø release.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.

Book Details:

Series: Harry Hole Series

Hardcover: 464 pages

Publisher: Knopf (July 9, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0525655395

ISBN-13: 978-0525655398

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager

Dutton Books; 7/2/19

CBTB Rating: 5/5

The Verdict: a must-read — gothic suspense with a modern twist

If you pack one book in your beach bag this summer, make it Riley Sager’s razor-sharp take on gothic suspense: LOCK EVERY DOOR, available July 2nd. You know those authors who just seem to get better and better with each new book? Sager is one of them, and LOCK EVERY DOOR cements him as a staple of any psychological thriller reader’s library. Blending horror tropes with spine-tingling suspense and juicy, just-one-more-page intrigue, LOCK EVERY DOOR invites readers inside one of New York’s most exclusive addresses—a place that might never let its readers - or its residents - go. Enter the Bartholomew: a (fictional) high-end apartment building overlooking Central Park. When down-on-her-luck protagonist Jules secures a position as an apartment-sitter in the Bartholomew, she can hardly believe her luck. But as Jules settles in and befriends a fellow apartment-sitter, she begins to worry that this beautiful building hides within its walls secrets darker than she could have ever imagined. In LOCK EVERY DOOR, Sager crafts a page-turning story of gothic suspense worthy of a place alongside the horror classics that inspired it. Protagonist Jules is a relatable and compelling millennial: a young woman struggling against the odds to make a life for herself, who just so happens to accept a job that might be her last. In the Bartholomew, nothing is as it seems. Enter at your own risk.

Plot Details:

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 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 sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers 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.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the hardest reviews to write are for the books I loved the most. I’ve written and rewritten this review of LOCK EVERY DOOR more times than I can count… so hopefully that gives you a sense of just how much I loved Sager’s newest release. This delicious blend of gothic suspense and modern-day psychological thriller is everything a horror fan like yours truly wants to read on vacation: it’s not too scary, but creepy enough to give you goosebumps; it’s not too violent, but delivers some iconic, burned-in-your-brain scenes worthy of a horror movie; its characters aren’t overly-drawn or underdone, but the perfect balance of melodramatic and seriously relatable. In short, LOCK EVERY DOOR is a superb balancing act: a psychological suspense novel that walks the (very fine) line between ode to classic horror and inventive, modern-day suspense story all its own. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a millennial walked into the plot of an Ira Levin story, LOCK EVERY DOOR is the book for you.

If you asked me to design a suspense novel perfectly tailored to suit my preferences, I would probably wish for something exactly like LOCK EVERY DOOR. One of my greatest weaknesses as a reader is a crime story with a setting that becomes a character unto itself—and that’s exactly what Sager gives us with his vividly drawn fictional apartment building, the Bartholomew. In many ways, LOCK EVERY DOOR reads like Sager’s ode to New York: steeped in the magic and lore of Manhattan’s iconic high-end real estate, and belying the dark underbelly of a world that feels unattainable and magical to most of us, LOCK EVERY DOOR acknowledges the mystique of New York City while also considering the dark side that often exists hand in hand with this level of opulence. Overlooking Central Park, the Bartholomew is a formidable presence: from its luxurious if somewhat heavy-handed interior to the gargoyles that adorn its exterior, Sager lovingly and vividly crafts his fictional apartment building with all the care of an architect perfecting his masterpiece. Spiral staircases, old-fashioned elevators, dumbwaiters, opulent wallpaper, impeccable furnishings—the world that protagonist Jules Larsen steps into in the Bartholomew couldn’t be farther from her couch-surfing past, and she can hardly believe her luck that she gets to call this storied building home. But as any horror reader will know, buildings this old and grand aren’t without their own histories. As Jules makes herself at home in her new world, she begins to feel a sinister presence in the Bartholomew. Could this building’s history be dangerous to its modern-day inhabitants?

Weaving between past and present, Sager expertly crafts a story of suspense that will raise the hairs on even the most seasoned crime reader’s arms. The Bartholomew isn’t an ordinary apartment building, you see, and our protagonist Jules is about to find out just how extraordinary it is. As she settles into her new life, Jules befriends another apartment sitter in the building—a young woman who comes from similar circumstances to Jules, but has been a resident of the Bartholomew just a bit longer. But something is off with Jules’ new friend. Whispers of dark events in the Bartholomew’s past soon catch Jules’ attention, and when her new friend goes missing, Jules finds herself thrown into an intricate mystery stretching back generations. What kind of place is the Bartholomew really? And why does it seem plagued by so very many suspicious deaths and disappearances? Our “everywoman” protagonist sets out to investigate, and soon discovers that her new home isn’t as picture-perfect as it seems. Sager brilliantly laces this psychological suspense novel with little suggestions of the otherworldly; could the Bartholomew be home to forces beyond Jules’ understanding? LOCK EVERY DOOR is a psychological thriller laced with scares worthy of the big screen.

Speaking of protagonist Jules Larsen: I can’t let this review come to an end without discussing what is sure to be my favorite of Sager’s characters yet. Jules Larsen is an “everywoman”: a millennial woman facing challenges deeply relatable to anyone who has ever worried about money or found themselves lacking direction in life. After splitting up with her two-timing boyfriend, Jules finds herself without a permanent address and with only a couple hundred dollars to her name. She’s been crashing on her best friend’s couch for weeks, applying for jobs with little luck. So when the opportunity to apartment sit at the Bartholomew - and earn a few thousand dollars in the process - falls into her lap, it’s too good for her not to take it. The circumstances in which Jules finds herself at the Bartholomew might be extraordinary, but the circumstances that Jules leaves behind by accepting this job are anything but. Jules is Sager’s most relatable protagonist yet; her money woes, career uncertainty, and wish for some semblance of stability in an ever-changing world rang true to this reader. But do you know what else rang true about Jules? Her resilience. She might be a down-to-earth character, but she’s a final girl through and through—an ode to the leading ladies of horror film, no doubt, but I also like to think she’s an ode to the resilience in all of us, too. Jules Larsen is the kind of heroine crime fiction needs more of: an ordinary woman with extraordinary courage. Just trust me, when you get to this book’s denoument (an epic, iconic scene that might just be my single favorite scene from any crime book of 2019 so far), you’ll be cheering for Jules all the way.

Reviewing a book you absolutely, completely loved is always a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you’re dying to tell everyone just how much you loved the read, but on the other hand, you’re worried you’ll never do the book justice. That’s where I stand with Riley Sager’s exceptional psychological thriller LOCK EVERY DOOR. Sager just seems to get better and better with each new release, and LOCK EVERY DOOR is objectively his best book yet. He’s got a huge fanbase around the world already, but Sager’s readership deserves to grow leaps and bounds with his newest release. So if you haven’t yet read a Riley Sager book, let’s not mince words: pick this book up as soon as possible.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Dutton (July 2, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1524745146

ISBN-13: 978-1524745141

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Q&A: M.T. Edvardsson, Author of A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome M.T. Edvardsson to Crime by the Book today to give us the inside scoop on his first crime novel to come to the United States. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY hits American bookstores today, June 25th, and what an absolute gem of a crime novel it is. Told in three distinct “parts,” A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY probes the limits of how far an ordinary family would go to protect one of their own. It might be set in Sweden, but what makes this story so impactful is its universality; the themes Edvardsson explores here will feel relevant whether you’re in Scandinavia like the story’s central family, in New York like I am as I write this, or anywhere in between. Edvardsson’s assured and thought-provoking crime novel is a little bit Nordic Noir, a little bit legal thriller, a little bit family drama—and when taken as a whole, it’s one of this summer’s most compelling suspense stories.

I’m thrilled to welcome M.T. Edvardsson to CBTB today to give us an inside scoop on this outstanding new release! In today’s blog post, you will find plot details for a NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY, a selection of early praise the book has already received, a snippet from my review, and, of course, my conversation with the author.

Huge thanks to the team at Celadon Books for facilitating this Q&A, and to M.T. Edvardsson for taking the time to answer my questions! A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is available now at your favorite bookseller.

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EdvardssonCeladon Books | Available June 25th, 2019About the Book:

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life―and one another.

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?

"Edvardsson ably weaves themes of parental guilt and sacrifice into a nuanced family drama."―Kirkus

“An intense legal thriller that successfully plays realistic, gripping emotion against a shocking legal twist.” ―Booklist

"At its core, A Nearly Normal Family asks: How well do you know your loved ones? Or your best friend? Or anyone? Whom can you trust? Edvardsson doesn't give easy answers, and even throws in commentary about the Swedish legal system when it comes to determining guilt or innocence. But the author raises provocative questions, wraps them up in a propulsive thriller and delivers an ultra-satisfying read that's far from ordinary."―Shelf Awareness

"A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a canny, intensely suspenseful legal thriller. A 18-year-old teenager is accused of murdering a 32-year-old man, provoking a crisis for every person close to her and challenging the commandments of the law as they confront the bonds of love and family life."―Scott Turow, Author of Presumed Innocent and Testimony

“M. T. Edvardsson has written a deceptive and riveting novel. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY will make you question everything you know about those closest to you.”―Karin Slaughter, Author of 18 international bestsellers

From My Review:

There’s nothing I love more than a buzzy new Scandinavian crime novel—so suffice it to say, M.T. Edvardsson’s US debut A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY has been high on my “most anticipated” list this year. I devoured this thoughtful and thought-provoking story just about a month ago, and have been mulling it over ever since. There’s a lot about this book that’s hard to categorize (and if you’ve been around CBTB for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of categorizing my reads!): is it a legal thriller? A domestic drama? A “whodunnit”? In the end, the answer may not really matter, because what A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is is wholly original and compelling. This slow-burn of a story takes readers into the midst of a family at the exact moment that their blissfully ordinary life is shattered. With the news that their daughter has been arrested for murder, a mother and father must face the unthinkable. How far will they go to protect their child? And what if their child really is guilty? This isn’t a pulse-pounding thriller in the traditional sense - as in, you won’t find shootouts or fight scenes within this book’s pages - but author M.T. Edvardsson ratchets up the tension and emotional investment all the same. Told in a wildly engrossing three-part structure, this domestic suspense-meets-courtroom drama is sure to be one of summer’s buzziest releases. | Read the Full Review

A Nearly Normal Family: A Novel By M.T. Edvardsson

Author Q&A: M.T. EdvardssonA NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY

Crime by the Book: First things first, thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to give us the inside scoop on your outstanding U.S. debut, A Nearly Normal Family. Let’s start at the beginning: what inspired you to write this story?

M.T. Edvardsson: I was lying in bed one night trying to fall asleep. I have two daughters, 3 and 6 years old. And I came to think about the situation in ten years or so when I will lie there in my bed and my daughters won’t be safely asleep in their bedrooms, but out with friends, downtown. And I think every parent can relate to that fear of not knowing when your child is coming home. Then I imagined my future teen daughter coming home way past midnight and me having the feeling that something was wrong. I imagined myself coming downstairs into the laundry room to find that my daughter had tried to wash blood off of her clothes. I asked myself what I would do. And if my daughter was brought in by the police the next morning, accused of murdering a man, what would I say? How would I react? And how far would I go in stretching the truth to protect my daughter? Our family is the closest relation we have, but do we always know everything about our family members?

CBTB: A Nearly Normal Family follows an ordinary family in Sweden. Who are the key characters in this story? How would you describe them to someone meeting them for the first time?

M.T.: Adam is a pastor in a congregation in the small town of Lund in Sweden. It has always been important for him to keep up a facade of normality, showing everyone around them that the Sandell family is free from problems. But as his daughter Stella is getting older she turns out to be totally different from what Adam expected her to be. Stella is not the quiet good girl Adam thought she would turn into and this leaves him confused. When does a parent go from being protective to being controlling? When we meet Stella at 18 she is a smart, funny young woman who does and says whatever she wants and as opposed to her parents, she doesn't give a damn what other people think. Her mother Ulrika is a criminal defense lawyer who feels a lot of guilt about neglecting her family for her carrier but also about never really being able to connect closely with her daughter. When Stella faces charges of murder, Ulrika sees the opportunity to make amends with the shortcomings from her past.

CBTB: You’ve done an excellent job making this story feel universal - like it could happen to any family anywhere in the world, not just to Stella and her parents in Sweden. What do you think makes Stella’s story feel so relatable?

M.T.: Being an author is a lot about putting yourself in someone else's place, becoming that character, feeling her feelings and thinking her thoughts. To make it real, it’s also important for the author to put a part of himself in every character. I wanted the reader to think “that could be me.” In addition, the moral dilemma in the book is universal – How far would you go to protect your children? I think everyone can relate to that.

“Being an author is a lot about putting yourself in someone else's place, becoming that character, feeling her feelings and thinking her thoughts. To make it real, it’s also important for the author to put a part of himself in every character. I wanted the reader to think ‘that could be me.’” — M.T. Edvardsson

CBTB: A Nearly Normal Family weaves elements of legal thriller into its story of domestic suspense. Did you do any research into Swedish laws and procedures in order to write the legal elements of this story so convincingly?

M.T.: I am vastly interested in true crime and criminology so I was very well informed about the Swedish legal system. I also have a good friend who works as a lawyer, who helped me a lot.

CBTB: One of my favorite elements of this story is the way you’ve structured it. The story’s three protagonists - Adam, Ulrika, and Stella - each take turns narrating a section of this story. I’m so curious - were any of these voices easier or more challenging to write?

M.T.: To me, Stella's voice was most interesting and fun to work with, since she is a teenager and uses a language somewhat quite different from her parents. But I actually think it was harder to keep Adam's and Ulrika's voices apart, since they are more similar. The absolutely most challenging part was in the rewriting and editing process when I had to jump between the three voices and still manage to keep them distinguished.

CBTB: How did you go about plotting A Nearly Normal Family? Did you write from an outline, or did you let the story develop naturally?

M.T.: I started off with the set up: the father, Adam, finds out that Stella is accused of murder and has to decide whether he should tell the whole truth or hide some things from the police. Then I knew that Stella would narrate part two, but when I began I actually had no idea that the mother Ulrika was going to tell part three (or that she eventually was going to play a crucial role in the plot). I am not one of those well-organized writers with outlines; I rather like to see where the story takes me.

CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime books you have recently read and enjoyed?

M.T.: I read a lot of crime novels and I tend to read many Swedish writers, so I’d love to recommend two of the best Swedish crime novels that are also available in English: The Silver Road by Stina Jackson and After She’s Gone by Camilla Grebe. This spring I have also read and very much enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine and Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.

CBTB: Last but certainly not least, what are you working on next? Can American readers look forward to another one of your novels in the future?

M.T.: I'm writing a new novel in the same genre as A Nearly Normal Family. It's also about a family that is strongly affected by a crime. My great U.S. publisher Celadon Books will publish this novel, hopefully within a year or two.

Many thanks to M.T. Edvardsson for answering my questions, and to the team at Celadon Books for facilitating this Q&A! A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is available today, June 25th, at your favorite bookseller.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Celadon Books (June 25, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250204437

ISBN-13: 978-1250204431

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie Jones

Minotaur Books; 6/11/19

CBTB Rating: 4.5/5

The Verdict: Binge-worthy beach reading

Sandie Jones made a splash last summer with her debut suspense novel THE OTHER WOMAN, a New York Times bestseller and a pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club—and she’s back this summer, and better than ever, with THE FIRST MISTAKE. A juicy, page-turning story of marital secrets, THE FIRST MISTAKE takes a familiar plot - a wife who suspects her husband might be hiding something from her - and turns it on its head. Following Alice, her husband Nathan, and her best friend Beth, THE FIRST MISTAKE unravels a layered story of deceit and betrayal… and I’m betting even the most seasoned suspense reader will be genuinely shocked by the twists author Sandie Jones has in store. Sophomore novels have a reputation for being particularly tricky to get right, but Sandie Jones has executed hers effortlessly; I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s THE OTHER WOMAN, but I liked THE FIRST MISTAKE even more. This book is pure pleasure reading. For readers of fan-favorite domestic thrillers Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris and Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison, THE FIRST MISTAKE is the perfect beach read: a story of what happens when happily ever after goes wrong.

Plot Details:

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

The first mistake could be her last.

If you’re anything like me, it takes a very special domestic suspense novel to stick out from the crowd and hold your attention. As always, I’ll be totally honest with you: I wasn’t completely sure at the outset if Sandie Jones’ newest book would be up my alley. The plot sounded just a bit too familiar, and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read another psychological suspense story about spouses betraying one another. But I decided to give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. Sandie Jones’ sophomore suspense novel THE FIRST MISTAKE is arguably an even better book than her smash-hit debut, THE OTHER WOMAN. It begins with a simple premise: a wife suspects her husband is keeping secrets from her, and turns to her best friend for help and solace. But in Sandie Jones’ capable hands, this story quickly veers away from the ordinary and becomes something genuinely surprising and deliciously dramatic. THE FIRST MISTAKE is a hugely confident and binge-worthy domestic suspense novel—it’s ”popcorn reading” at its finest, perfect for your next vacation.

In THE FIRST MISTAKE, readers are introduced to Alice: a wife, a mother, and the talent behind a successful interior design firm. But Alice’s life isn’t as perfect as it first appears. Alice’s current husband, Nathan, is actually her second husband—her first husband passed away years prior, and Alice’s life has been irrevocably marked by this tragedy. Readers are given hints that Alice may have suffered a mental breakdown following her first husband’s passing, and they will quickly pick up on her perhaps excessive fondness for wine as a coping mechanism to escape the ghosts of her past. Enter Nathan, Alice’s charming and devoted second husband. Nathan met Alice at a low point in her life, and embraced her and her daughter, helping them to rebuild in the wake of tragedy. Nathan and Alice are business partners at their successful interior design firm. Business is booming, and Nathan and Alice are embarking on a massive new venture overseas when readers enter their lives. Alice and Nathan’s future looks bright. Outside of her marriage, Alice’s closest confidante is Beth, her best friend. Beth has been a steadfast presence in Alice’s life for years, so when Alice begins to notice Nathan behaving oddly, she confides in Beth her fears that Nathan might be having an affair. Beth has her own history with unfaithful partners; the father of her child abandoned her years prior, leaving her to fend for herself. But as Alice invites Beth into the innermost parts of her life, she begins to wonder if her trust has been misplaced. As Alice begins to investigate those closest to her, she discovers that the secrets that have been kept from her are more shocking than she could ever have imagined.

Sandie Jones is a true pro at writing those “never saw it coming” plot twists, and THE FIRST MISTAKE involves not one, not two, but many such twists that will keep readers constantly wrong-footed. Employing alternate narrators and time jumps to impeccable effect, Jones keeps readers hooked; she masterfully doles out just enough information to keep you wanting more. And just when you think you’ve got this story figured out, Jones pulls the rug out from under you once again. It’s nearly impossible to discuss the ways this story develops without spoiling anything (which you know I’d never do!), so suffice it to say that I never could have predicted the directions in which Jones would take this story—and I was so glad to be as thoroughly surprised as I was. What begins as a story centered around an unfaithful husband quickly develops into something far more sinister and complex, elevating THE FIRST MISTAKE above many of its domestic suspense peers. If you’re game for a twisty, layered psychological suspense novel that involves all manner of deceit and scheming, let Sandie Jones lead you into this deliciously shocking story of a marriage in which nothing is as it seems.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting by the pool reading, I want the book in my hands to be something that’s just plain fun to read—preferably something with a jaw-dropping twist or two, too. If that sounds like the kind of book on your summer wishlist, Sandie Jones’ THE FIRST MISTAKE might just be your perfect read. Jones’ sophomore novel is a confident outing that shows significant growth from her debut, THE OTHER WOMAN, and delivers what will surely be one of Summer 2019’s most addictive, binge-worthy reading experiences. If you love psychological suspense novels by B.A. Paris, J.T. Ellison, or Shari Lapena, don’t miss Sandie Jones’ THE FIRST MISTAKE.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 11, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250192021

ISBN-13: 978-1250192028

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Excerpt: THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie JonesMinotaur Books | Available June 11th, 2019

‘Tis the season for beach reads - and what better way to ring in the summer than with Sandie Jones’ newest psychological thriller? THE FIRST MISTAKE, Sandie’s sophomore psychological suspense novel, releases June 11th, and thanks to the team at Minotaur Books, I’m thrilled to give CBTB readers the chance to dip in to an early excerpt on the blog today!

Sandie Jones made a splash last summer with her debut, THE OTHER WOMAN. It was a New York Times bestseller and was selected as one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks! Now, Sandie is back with THE FIRST MISTAKE: a suspense novel that looks just as juicy and binge-worthy as the author’s debut. The summer season always puts me in the mood for a “popcorn read” just like this one, and I can’t wait to dig in to THE FIRST MISTAKE this week!

In this post, you’ll find details on THE FIRST MISTAKE and an excerpt from the book’s prologue and first chapter. Many thanks to Minotaur for giving CBTB readers this inside scoop on what’s sure to be one of summer’s buzziest beach reads! THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie Jones hits bookstores June 11th.

THE FIRST MISTAKE by Sandie Jones

From Sandie Jones, the author of the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller The Other Woman, comes an addictively readable new domestic suspense about a wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

The first mistake could be her last.

Praise for THE OTHER WOMAN by Sandie Jones

"Whiplash-inducing final pages."―New York Times Book Review

"Excellent . . . [Jones] delves into the motives of a homegrown monster . . . delivers a tightly coiled story in The Other Woman and fills it with believable characters."―Associated Press

"Such fun you'll cheer [Emily's] chutzpah."―PEOPLE

"Monster-in-law! The love triangle in this twisted psychological thriller is between Emily, her new boyfriend Adam and Adam’s mother, Pammie, who refuses to let her son go and wants Emily out of his life!"―In Touch Weekly “Book Report” (A-)

"It's a page turner like no other, and the ending will knock your socks off."―Hello Giggles

"Begs to be devoured in one sitting . . . deliciously dramatic and sinister . . . If you're in the market for a lighter suspense read with a genuinely jaw-dropping finale, Sandie Jones' debut belongs on your TBR."―Crime by the Book

"For anyone who's dealt with an unsavory in-law, this thriller will hit close to home."―Refinery29

"This book will have you cheering its spunky heroine one minute and gasping from shock the next."―PopSugar

"A twisted read, perfect for a long day at the beach."―Brit+Co

"Sandie Jones is the real deal. The Other Woman is a stunning psychological thriller on par with Harlan Coben's Fool Me Once, and a serious contender for best twist of the year."―The Real Book Spy

"Pammie is every young woman's worst nightmare: a mean mother-in-law (on steroids) in this addictive debut thriller. Readers' pulses will race as they anticipate how she might strike next and be completely knocked off balance by the shocking ending."―Library Journal (Starred and Boxed)

"Jones ratchets up the tension to the breaking point and throws in a curveball that will make readers' heads spin. Wildly entertaining, with a smashing twist."―Kirkus Reviews

"This sneak-attack thriller’s power is in its relatability . . . Emotionally tense, with layers of deception offering strong appeal for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Christobel Kent, and Karen Perry."―Booklist

"Fans of plot-driven psychological thrillers will enjoy the ride."―Publishers Weekly

"A perfect beach read."―Kristin Hannah

"A twisty, deliciously fun read."―Sarah Pekkanen, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Wife Between Us

The First Mistake By Sandie Jones

EXCERPT: THE FIRST MISTAKEBy Sandie JonesPROLOGUE

She looked at me with real warmth in her eyes, as if she trusted me with her life, and for a moment I thought I couldn’t go through with it.

But then I remembered what she’d done and I suddenly felt calm again. What goes around comes around, and she deserves everything that’s coming her way.

Trust is a funny thing; it takes such a long time to build, yet it’s broken in a second.

She shouldn’t trust me—it will be her undoing.

PART 1PRESENT DAYALICEONE

“Sophia, let’s go,” I call out from the hall. “Livvy, where’s your homework?”

She huffs and rushes off to the kitchen. “I thought you’d put it in my bag.”

“I’m your mother, not your slave. And besides, you’re eight now, you should be taking more responsibility.” I’m exasperated, though in truth, I’d happily pack her school bag for another ten years if it meant I could hang on to my baby who, it seems, has disappeared within a blink of an eye. How had I lost that time?

“Here,” she exclaims. “Have you got my swimming cap?” “Olivia! Oh, for God’s sake, is it swimming today?”

She sticks one hip out to the side and rests her hand on the other, with all the sassiness of her fifteen-year-old sister. “Er, yeah, it’s Wednesday.”

“Run upstairs quickly, look in your top drawer. I’ll count to five and you need to be back down here. Sophia, we’re going.” I’m shouting by the end of the sentence.

What my elder daughter does up there I don’t know. Every day it seems to take her five minutes longer to straighten her hair, scribe the black kohl under her eye, inflate her lips with self-plumping lip gloss or whatever else it is she uses. She looks undeniably gorgeous when she does eventually appear, but is it all really necessary, for school?

“I can’t find it,” Olivia calls out.

“We’re late,” I shout, before huffing up the stairs. I feel a heaviness in my chest, a spring tightly coiled, as I rifle desperately through her socks and knickers. “If I find it in here . . .” I say, never finishing the sentence, because I’m not quite sure what I’m threatening. “Did you wear it last week?”

“Yes,” she says quietly, aware of my mood. “Well, do you remember bringing it home?”

“Yes, definitely,” she says confidently, knowing that any other response will have me blowing a gasket.

The grip on my chest releases as I spot the matte rubber cap in the back corner of the drawer. “Great,” I say under my breath, before adding as I run down the stairs, “Livvy, you really do need to wake up. Sophia, we’re getting in the car.”

“I’m coming,” she shouts back indignantly, as if she’s said it three times already. With her music playing that loudly, how would anyone ever know?

She skulks into the passenger seat of the car and instantly pulls down the sun visor to inspect herself in the mirror as we drive.

“Haven’t you just spent the past hour doing that?” I ask.

She tuts and flicks it back up with as much attitude as it will allow. “What time will you be home tonight?” I ask, ten minutes later, as I lean across and offer my cheek. She kisses it reluctantly, which she’s only just started doing again, since we struck a deal to park slightly farther away from school.

“There’s a maths revision class, so I’ll probably go to that,” she says. “What’s for tea?”

We’ve just had breakfast, are at least four hours away from lunch, and she wants to know what’s for tea? I do a mental scan of the fridge. It doesn’t look too healthy. I might be able to rustle up a pasta dish, at best.

“What would you like?” I smile.

She shrugs her shoulders. “Don’t mind. Something nice?”

I pull her toward me and kiss the top of her head. “Go on, go. I’ll pop into Marks and Spencer if I get time.”

She smiles and gets out of the car. “See you, divvy Livvy.”

“Bye poo face,” giggles her little sister from the back seat.

I put the window down as we drive past her and call out, but she’s al- ready locked into her phone, unseeing and unhearing of everything else around her. “Look up,” I say to her silently. “You’ll never know what you might miss.”

Olivia and I do a light jog into school, which isn’t easy in these heels. “I love you,” I say, as she rushes off to join a playground game of netball without looking back.

“Mrs. Davies, can I have a word?” calls out Miss Watts from across the playground. I purposely avoid eye contact. I don’t have time for this. I look at my watch to let her know I’m under pressure.

“Sorry, it won’t take a minute,” she says. “Would you like to come into the classroom?”

I look at my watch again. “I’m running late, can we do it here?”

“Of course. It’s just that . . .” She looks around surreptitiously, but it’s early enough not to have too many other parents within earshot. “It’s just that we had a little incident yesterday, in the playground.”

My heart lurches and I can feel my brow furrowing. “What kind of incident?” I ask, forcing myself to stay calm.

The teacher rests a reassuring hand on my arm, though it feels any- thing but. “Oh, it’s nothing serious,” she says. “Just a falling-out between a few of the girls.” She rolls her eyes. “You know how girls can be.”

“Was Olivia involved?” I ask.

“Apparently so. There were just a few nasty words bandied about, and Phoebe Kendall says that Olivia threatened not to play with her anymore. I’m sure it was nothing more than playground antics, but Phoebe was a little upset by it.”

I imagine she was. “Olivia didn’t mention anything last night. Did you speak to her?”

“I had a quiet word yesterday,” she says, looking around again before continuing in a hushed tone. “It’s just that it isn’t the first time that Olivia has been involved in an altercation of this type.”

I look at her, trying to read what’s going on behind her eyes. “Oh” is all I can manage.

Miss Watts leans in closer. “She’s normally such a bright and bubbly child, eager to be friends with everyone, but these past few weeks . . .”

I rack my brain, wondering what’s changed things. “I’ll talk to her— see what’s going on.”

“Perhaps it would be useful to come in for a chat,” she says, tilting her head to one side. Her condescending smile reminds me of a therapist I once had. The one who asked me to close my eyes and imagine I was lying on a deserted beach, with the sun warming my skin and the gentle waves lapping at my feet.

I hadn’t gone back. Treating me like a five-year-old didn’t work then, and it certainly isn’t going to work now.

“I’d be happy to see you and Mr. Davies after school today if you’re available?” Miss Watts goes on.

“I’m afraid Nathan . . . Mr. Davies is away on business. He’s flying back this afternoon.”

“Ah, okay then, perhaps another time,” she says. “I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, just something we need to keep our eye on.”

“Of course,” I say before turning on my heels and instantly bumping into a group of girls playing hopscotch. “I’ll talk to her tonight.”

I make my apologies to the disgruntled children as I tiptoe over brightly painted numbers on the tarmac.

“Wow, you look a bit done-up for this time in the morning,” calls out Beth, as she streaks past me in trainers and go-faster Lycra with her daughter Millie trailing behind.

“Hey, gorgeous girl,” I say to the petulant-looking eight-year-old. “What’s up?”

“She got up late,” Millie replies, as she rolls her eyes theatrically toward her mother. “And now we’re all paying for it.”

Beth turns around and pokes her tongue out at the both of us. “Let me drop this little madam off and I’ll walk out with you.”

I tap my watch. “I’m running late,” I say after her. “I’ll catch you later.” But she’s already gone and is depositing Millie in the playground. I start walking out, knowing that within seconds she’ll be at my side.

“So where are you off to all dressed up?” she asks, half-accusingly, as she catches up with me. I look down at my black skirt; granted, it is a little tight. And my red top; perhaps a little low. But my jacket goes some way to covering me up. Suddenly conscious of what Miss Watts might have thought, I pull it closed.

“Do I have to be going somewhere to make an effort?” I laugh lightly, though Olivia is still nagging at my brain.

“Anything other than pajamas or gym gear is abnormal at this time of day,” Beth says. “So yes, you looking like that, when us mere mortals haven’t even had time to brush our teeth, is really not fair, and most definitely shouldn’t be allowed.”

“It’s just my normal work attire,” I say. “Nothing out of the ordinary.” My face flushes and she raises her eyebrows. Who am I trying to kid? “I believe you, even if a thousand others wouldn’t,” she says, giving me a wink.

I smile, though I feel the heat rise in my cheeks. “Did you hear anything about the girls falling out yesterday?”

She looks at me nonplussed and shakes her head. “No, why, what happened?”

“Miss Watts just told me that a few of them had a bit of a ding-dong. It seems Phoebe and Livvy were involved. I just wondered if Millie had said anything to you about it.”

“No, but I can ask her if you like.”

“Probably best not to make a big thing of it for the moment,” I say. “I’ll wait and see if Livvy mentions it.”

“Okay. You still on for tomorrow night?”

“Definitely! Nathan’s back today and already knows he’s on babysitting duties.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” she says, laughing. “A man who knows his place.”

“Where do you fancy going?” I ask. “Uptown or do you want to stay local? There’s a new place that’s just opened in Soho. Nathan went there with a client and raved about it.”

“I don’t mind, could give it a try. Though saying that, I don’t get paid for another three days, so if it’s expensive, I might have to save it until after payday.”

“No worries, it’ll be my treat,” I say, and see her eyes momentarily narrow. I bite my tongue and immediately wish I could suck the words back in. I’d hate for her to think I’m being patronizing, but I’d genuinely like to help. It takes a little longer for my brain to catch up with my mouth and realize that she might appreciate a handout for something more worthwhile than an over-priced meal in a fancy restaurant.

“Don’t be silly,” she says finally, and I let out a sigh of relief. “Why don’t we do a pizza night tomorrow and go uptown next week?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I say.

From The First Mistake by Sandie Jones. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Publishing Group.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 11, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250192021

ISBN-13: 978-1250192028

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Cover Reveal: REPUTATION by Sara ShepardDutton Books | Available December 3rd, 2019

Mark your calendars, psychological thriller readers--Sara Shepard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars series, has a new adult suspense novel on sale later this year: REPUTATION, coming December 3rd, 2019 from Dutton Books! Thanks to Sara’s team at Dutton, I’m absolutely thrilled to reveal the (gorgeous!) cover for REPUTATION on CBTB today -- and not only that, but CBTB readers will also be treated to a mini Q&A with Sara right here, too!

This is a personal dream come true for me - I’m a huge fan of Pretty Little Liars, and couldn’t be more excited for Sara’s newest adult suspense release later this year. If you love juicy suspense novels with twists, turns, and lots of intrigue, you’ll want to add REPUTATION to your reading list immediately.

Read on to get the inside scoop on Sara Shepard’s newest release, including plot details, a mini Q&A with the author, and a look at the book’s gorgeous cover!

COVER REVEAL: REPUTATIONBy Sara Shepard About REPUTATION:

In this perfectly-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, the women of a tight-knit college town learn through gossip, scandal, betrayal, and even murder, who their neighbors and husbands really are.

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people's e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning's handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit's sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn't right about the night Greg was killed, and she's determined to find the truth. What she doesn't expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It's a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.

Reputation: A Novel By Sara Shepard



Mini Q&A: Sara ShepardAuthor of Reputation

Crime by the Book: First things first, thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to give us a sneak peek into your newest psychological suspense novel, Reputation. We have so much to look forward to when this book hits shelves in December! In your own words, what is Reputation about?

Sara Shepard: Thank you so much for having me! It's a total treat, and I'm a huge fan! So Reputation is about a group of people in a community who are affected by an email hack. Some of them are affected directly, and some of them worry about being affected, as they have things to hide. As with so many of my books, of course there's a murder-- and a twisty investigation. But more than that, it's about family, friendship, secrets, dredging up old wounds, and how far you'd go to keep things hidden. Some people would go quite far!

CBTB: What inspired you to write this story? Was there one “lightbulb moment” when the concept for this book popped into your head, or did it develop over time?

Sara: So actually, Reputation was kicked around as a TV series idea before it was a book. Someone I work with mentioned an idea of a community-wide hack, as the Sony hack had happened recently. And then it grew from there. A few characters have always been the same-- Willa and Kit, the sisters, and I feel like Laura has always been the same sort of person. But it has definitely been an evolution. I wish I had books that just popped into my head but with most of them, it's a lot of trial and error, writing and rewriting, and going in one direction and realizing that there's a much better path that I haven't yet tried.

CBTB: If you had to describe Reputation in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Sara: Juicy, stealthy, surprising.

CBTB: Tell us about Reputation’s protagonists, Kit and Willa. Who are these women? How would you describe them to someone meeting them for the first time?

Sara: Kit and Willa are sisters, but they weren't very alike growing up and aren't very alike now. Kit is more of the social one of the group-- the people pleaser. Willa is driven and a little bit dismissive of people-- she doesn't like getting close. She's the more sarcastic of the two. Kit is more aspirational/ optimistic. Willa's a good person to tell your problems to-- she's an investigative journalist, and yearns for the truth. On the other hand, Kit would be a fun person to get a drink with because she'd probably always keep the conversation light and fun.

CBTB: I love suspense novels that take place in a university setting, which makes me doubly excited for Reputation! What do you think makes a university a perfect backdrop for a psychological thriller?

Sara: I'm a sucker for setting stories in locales that have an air of reverence about them. The fictitious college, Aldrich University, is touted as one of the best schools in the country...it's hard to believe anything would ever go wrong in a place like that. But colleges are also the breeding grounds for bad habits, backward traditions, and a lot of cover-ups. It was so easy to brainstorm nasty stuff that came out about people in the hack-- all I had to do was Google "college scandals" and it was all right there! Also, at colleges, you're supposed to feel "safe"-- it's a place of learning, you're paying a lot of money for people to protect and watch over your children-- you don't want to imagine all the horrific events that could happen. There's a scene where we see the school actually being hacked--computer monitors going dark, freaking out, strange messages coming on the screen, and a database popping up of everyone's emails, available for public consumption For me, that's more horrific than a murderer hiding in a corner!

CBTB: No spoilers, of course, but can we expect a plot twist or two in this story? I can’t wait to dig in!

Sara: Yes, there are a few twists! There are two main questions-- one, who is the killer, and two, who did the hack. I think-- I hope!-- readers will be surprised by both.

Many thanks to Sara Shepard for taking the time to answer my questions about her newest suspense novel, Reputation! Mark your calendars - Reputation hits bookstores December 3rd, 2019.

Book Details:

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Dutton (December 3, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1524742902

ISBN-13: 978-1524742904

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson

Celadon Books; 6/25/19

CBTB Rating: 4/5

The Verdict: family drama meets courtroom drama

There’s nothing I love more than a buzzy new Scandinavian crime novel—so suffice it to say, M.T. Edvardsson’s US debut A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY has been high on my “most anticipated” list this year. I devoured this thoughtful and thought-provoking story just about a month ago, and have been mulling it over ever since. There’s a lot about this book that’s hard to categorize (and if you’ve been around CBTB for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of categorizing my reads!): is it a legal thriller? A domestic drama? A “whodunnit”? In the end, the answer may not really matter, because what A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is is wholly original and compelling. This slow-burn of a story takes readers into the midst of a family at the exact moment that their blissfully ordinary life is shattered. With the news that their daughter has been arrested for murder, a mother and father must face the unthinkable. How far will they go to protect their child? And what if their child really is guilty? This isn’t a pulse-pounding thriller in the traditional sense - as in, you won’t find shootouts or fight scenes within this book’s pages - but author M.T. Edvardsson ratchets up the tension and emotional investment all the same. Told in a wildly engrossing three-part structure, this domestic suspense-meets-courtroom drama is sure to be one of summer’s buzziest releases.

Plot Details:

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life―and one another.

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?

The more crime books I read, the more I realize that the books that really, truly get under my skin are often the quietest. It’s not the bloody, slasher serial killer thriller that keeps me up late into the night—it’s books like A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY, books infused with the kind of familiarity that seems to whisper to the reader “this could happen to you, too.” M.T. Edvardsson has mastered this kind of relatable, too-close-to-home suspense. The opening pages of A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY are devoted to exactly this: establishing for the reader just how ordinary - just how very much like the reader - this story’s protagonists truly are. Readers are dropped into the mundane: the family dinners, the minor disagreements, the traditions, the quotidian details that make up an ordinary life. This story happens to be set in Sweden, but in this respect, it could truly be set anywhere—this family is instantly recognizable and relatable. They could be you. But just as the reader begins to feel lulled into a sense of complacency and security, Edvardsson drops the hammer, and the family’s teenage daughter is accused of committing a brutal murder. In an instant, this ordinary family is shattered.

What would you do if your child were accused of a brutal crime? This is the unthinkable question our protagonists are faced with, and it’s the question that drives this intricate story forward. Central to A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY are three characters: Stella, the teenager accused of the crime; Adam, Stella’s father, a pastor; and Ulrika, Stella’s mother, a lawyer. I wouldn’t personally characterize this story as character-driven, though the perspectives of its characters are certainly essential to the narrative’s unfolding; though we’re in these characters heads, they aren’t quite as fully fleshed out as readers familiar with the highly character-driven novels of big-name Scandinavian crime writers might expect. But that’s not a flaw—to me, it’s a strategic choice. This story really isn’t about knowing every facet of its protagonists. It’s about unraveling the truth surrounding Stella’s arrest, and the author takes great care to keep every element in this story pointed towards that one goal. Though readers will spend time with each of our story’s three protagonists, they will never get a full sense of who these individuals are—but that’s okay. Just be sure to tailor your expectations accordingly; this won’t be the right book for you to pick up if you’re looking for a crime novel with a protagonist you can fall in love with. What’s most important here is what we can learn about the events surrounding the commission of the story’s central crime from the characters -- not what we learn about the characters themselves.

Edvardsson employs a fascinating plot structure to lay out the facts of the case at hand. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is told in three parts: one narrated by Adam, one by Ulrika, and one by Stella. Each “part” is strategically employed to develop a unique strand of the mystery, giving the reader new insights and perspectives on the facts established early on. These “parts” never intertwine; each character takes his or her turn telling his or her side of the story, leaving it up to readers to connect the dots between these disparate perspectives on the truth. Along the way, readers will bear witness to the fissures that exist beneath the picture-perfect facade of this very normal family, and will watch as this once-cohesive family unit begins to splinter. Edvardsson’s ambitious plot structure pays off: readers will find themselves riveted by the change in tone and pacing that occurs with each new “part.” It’s to the author’s credit that this structure, which could feel disjointed in less capable hands, is so thoroughly entertaining and cohesive. If there’s one quibble to be had with the content of these “parts,” it’s simply that the latter two “parts” (both substantially shorter than the first) were so riveting, I could have done with a bit more time spent in each.

Much about A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY defies what we typically encounter when we pick up a Scandinavian crime novel, but at its core, this story centers around something very familiar: a crime that must be solved. A man has been killed—a local businessman has been found brutally murdered in a quiet park. While Stella awaits her trial, and while her mother and father grapple with the horrific possibility that their daughter may be a murderer, the wheels of justice are turning. How did Stella know this businessman? What connection did she have to him, and what could possibly be her motive for murder? Perspective is everything here, and readers who love a slow-burning, intricate mystery will find huge amounts of material to sink their teeth into. As readers explore the varying perspectives of our story’s three central characters, the truth slowly but surely rises to the surface—and what readers come to learn about Stella and her personal life will shock and captivate.

Part domestic suspense, part courtroom drama, part Scandinavian noir, A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a wholly original and memorable crime novel—the kind of genuinely compelling story you will find yourself thinking about days after you’ve turned the final page. Readers who love a slow-burning, intricate crime story with a healthy dose of domestic drama will find A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY perfectly suited to their tastes; if you prefer a gritty, fast-paced thriller, on the other hand, you might find this story a bit slow for your preferences. Expectations are everything here, and the reader open to a thought-provoking and unusual crime novel will surely be as hooked on A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY as I was. With his US debut, M.T. Edvardsson has established himself as an author to watch.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.

Book Details:

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Celadon Books (June 25, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250204437

ISBN-13: 978-1250204431

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Kate White and Alafair Burke Discuss SUCH A PERFECT WIFE

Kate White - former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and bestselling writer - has a brand-new crime novel out this week: SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, available tomorrow (May 7th) from Harper Books! In honor of Kate’s newest release, I’m thrilled to share with CBTB readers a fantastic conversation between Kate and bestselling crime writer Alafair Burke, in which these two very talented women discuss SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, writing gutsy female characters, advice for aspiring writers, and more. If there ever were a fascinating and inspiring pair of women to learn from, it’s these two, and I’m absolutely thrilled to share their Q&A with CBTB readers today! In this post, you can learn more about Kate’s forthcoming release SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, plus get all the details on Alafair’s newest book, THE BETTER SISTER, too. Huge thanks to HarperCollins, Kate White, and Alafair Burke for sharing this Q&A with us today! Read on for all the details on both books, and the Q&A between Kate and Alafair.

About the BooksSUCH A PERFECT WIFE by Kate White

Blonde. Beautiful. A loving mother.

And missing since Monday.

On a sunny morning in late September, Shannon Blaine sets off for a jog along the rural roads near her home in Lake George, New York. It’s her usual a.m. routine, her “me time” after dropping the kids off at school…except on this day she never returns.

Is her husband lying when he says he has no clue where she is? Could Shannon have split on her own, overwhelmed by the pressures of her life? Or is she the victim of a sexual predator who had been prowling the area and snatched her before she knew what was happening.

True crime writer Bailey Weggins, on assignment for the website Crime Beat, heads north from New York City to report on the mysterious disappearance. An anonymous tip soon leads Bailey to a grisly, bone-chilling discovery. Every town has its secrets, Bailey reminds herself, and nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. She keeps digging for answers until—when it’s almost too late—she unearths the terrifying truth.

Such a Perfect Wife: A Novel By Kate White THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke

Keep your enemies close and your sister closer.

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be the one in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky—always restless and more than a little reckless—was the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed that both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenage stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

The Better Sister: A Novel By Alafair Burke

Kate White and Alafair Burke DiscussSuch a Perfect Wife

Alafair: With your new book Such a Perfect Wife, and last year's Even if It Kills Her, you’ve returned to your series character, true crime writer Bailey Weggins. How do you decide whether a story should be written as a standalone novel or part of your mystery series?

Kate: That’s such an interesting question. With both types of books, I usually start with the germ of an idea that I’ve picked up from a news headline or maybe just a phrase I’ve read or overheard. Something as simple as “newborn twins” or “broken engagement” can be enough to get me wondering, “What if?”

But when I consider whether to make it the basis for a standalone psychological thriller or part of my mystery series, I guess it comes down to the perspective I want to have in the book. Bailey, as you point out, is a true crime writer and when I write books with her as the protagonist, it’s about looking from the outside in, about Bailey covering a case as a reporter and trying to gain perspective and uncover the truth.

With a standalone thriller, like the one I’m currently working on, I’m writing from the inside out. The protagonist is always a woman who finds herself by chance in a nightmarish situation and has to figure out not only what’s really going on but how she you can save herself.

Alafair: What were some of the thoughts that went into the story of Such a Perfect Wife?

Kate: The idea came from the fascination I have and the sadness I feel when reading news stories about wives or girlfriends who vanish and later turn out to have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Recently there was that horrible story of Shanann Watts, whose husband Chris killed her and their two little daughters so he could be with his mistress, and the Colorado mom apparently killed by her fiancé, who, it seems, might have disposed of her body with the help of his secret girlfriend. With Such a Perfect Wife, I wanted to write about a missing wife, but I also wanted to pose the question: What if, just maybe, the husband didn’t do it? Bailey finds herself asking that question when she is sent by Crime Beat to cover the story of a young mother named Shannon Blaine, who seems to have vanished into thin air. By the way, I had already chosen the name before I read about Shannan Watts.

Alafair: You were the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for 14 years before leaving to focus on other projects, but you still write non-fiction books with business advice for women, including The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success. What is your writing process? Do you work on multiple projects at a time, or focus solely on either a fiction or non-fiction book at once?

Kate: I always start writing pretty early in the morning and go through until lunchtime. I save the afternoon for social media, promotional stuff, research, and, if I really have to, editing.

One of the big discoveries for me was realizing that writing is easier for me in the morning, which took me by surprise because I’m a crazy night owl by nature. I think it’s key, no matter what you do, to figure out what your power hours are. When do you feel most in the zone? Don’t just assume, experiment. I’ve heard a lot of fiction writes say the morning hours just have a certain magic for them, and it’s certainly when I feel most productive. Only problem for me is that I still love staying up late! So sometimes my brain feels a little fried.

As for juggling non-fiction (whether writing books or editing Cosmo) and fiction, I used to have to do that regularly, and I made it work, but I didn’t love it. You’re really using two different parts of your brain. And constant going back and forth is always tough. There’s some interesting research which shows that when you interrupt a creative task to answer emails, it takes way too long for your brain to switch gears, and it’s really hard to regain the focus you had.

That’s how it feels when I’m toggling between writing fiction and non-fiction, so I’m trying to do that less and less. I adored my fourteen years running Cosmo, which included sitting at dinner next to everyone from Bill Clinton to Bradley Cooper (though he did NOT stare at me like he did Lady Gaga), but I left mainly in order to be able to write fiction full-time.

Alafair, I could ask you the same question. You not only write amazing fiction, but you’re a law professor. Do you find it hard to switch back and forth?

Alafair: Ha, you caught me asking about something I still struggle with. The magic writing time for me is late at night. If we ever did a writing retreat together, we’d never see each other! And I’ve tried to keep my law professor and writer lives separate. I tend to conceptualize a novel while writing my legal scholarship and vice versa. With time, I have found a way to tether the two worlds, which make it a bit easier to toggle back and forth.

Next question: Do you see a connection between the advice you write for women and the fictional characters you create on the page?

Kate: Well, I’d kill to go on vacation with you, Alafair, but I guess it couldn’t be a writer’s retreat. As for your question, I never really thought of it that way, but yes, I think there’s a connection between some of the advice I write for women and my characters. In my career books, I always stress the importance of being bold and thinking big. The playing field isn’t equal, and it won’t be until men, companies, and the culture change, but until then it pays to give yourself an edge by being as gutsy as possible. Even if it’s scary.

Though my female protagonists may have their flaws, they’re basically smart, gutsy women, not damaged in some profound way. But something bad suddenly happens to them, which tilts their world off its axis. They need all their strength and smarts to come through it.

That’s one of the things I love about your books, besides the fact that they’re such great thrillers. Olivia in the The Ex, for instance, and Angela in The Wife, are flawed in certain ways, and their lives haven’t been easy, but they’re also incredibly capable and fearless. I assume the same is true with your new book, The Better Sister. Am I right?

Alafair: Yes. The book has two female characters—Chloe and Nicky, adult sisters—who are imperfect in different ways, but I’d describe both of them as strong and (even) likable…..If you had to give one piece of advice to inspiring writers, what would it be?

Kate: Since a tendency to procrastinate and feel stuck affects many aspiring writers, my advice is to not panic when this happens or convince yourself it means you don’t really want to write. Just approach your procrastination as a problem that needs to be solved. Because if you start in with the self-loathing, it creates a vicious cycle. I was a world-class procrastinator with my writing in my twenties, and I used time management strategies to help me conquer the problem.

My favorite strategy is one I think of as the ten-minute miracle. One time-management expert I spoke to years ago said that we sometimes resist tackling an important project not because we don’t want to accomplish it but because we make it really daunting, and thus it’s easy to put it off. He suggested slicing projects down the same way you would cut a chunk of salami and making the slices as small as necessary, so you’ll be able to digest them easily.

I tried that when I wrote my first mystery. Instead of swearing, “I’m going to write all day,” I told myself I would write for only 10 or 15 minutes a day. I knew that window of time was a “slice” small enough for me to handle and I wouldn’t resist. Soon I was going for thirty minutes and then an hour and longer and longer. I sound like a new puppy that had to be trained, but it really worked--and others I’ve shared it with have said it worked for them, too. I highly recommend the ten-minute miracle!

Alafair: I knew you of all people would have great advice! Congratulations on another terrific novel.

Book Details:

SUCH A PERFECT WIFE by Kate White

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (May 7, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0062886266

ISBN-13: 978-0062886262

THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (April 16, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0062853376

ISBN-13: 978-0062853370

Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview