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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I KNOW WHO YOU ARE by Alice Feeney

Flatiron Books; 4/23/19

CBTB Rating: 4.5/5

The Verdict: gripping, edge-of-your-seat suspense with a killer twist

In the mood for a book that’s dark and binge-worthy? You’ve come to the right place. In her stellar sophomore suspense novel, queen of the plot twist Alice Feeney delivers a genuine nail-biter, and a book that’s a worthy follow-up to her knockout debut, SOMETIMES I LIE. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE is a psychological thriller that pushes boundaries and delivers a truly twisted reading experience; it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up for a suspense novel with an edge, it will be right up your alley. Following an actress who has spent her life adopting identities other than her own, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE takes readers inside a troubled marriage, and into the past our protagonist has worked so hard to keep hidden. When our protagonist’s husband goes missing, suspicion falls on her. Can she keep her past from catching up to her? Feeney made a splash with her debut thriller SOMETIMES I LIE, and in I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, she ups the ante. You might not guess it from this book’s relatively innocuous plot and seriously stylish cover, but I KNOW WHO YOU ARE is dark through and through. Alice Feeney has a dark imagination, and she pulls no punches in her sophomore thriller. What begins innocently enough twists and turns into something altogether shocking and utterly addictive. Clear your calendars: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE begs to be devoured whole.

Plot Details:

Meet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from.

Except one person.

Someone knows Aimee very well.

They know who she is and they know what she did.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is―but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when you love an author’s debut novel, you’ll find yourself an odd mix of excited and nervous when it’s time to read their sophomore effort. I found myself in exactly that position when I picked up Alice Feeney’s second psychological thriller, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Her debut, SOMETIMES I LIE, was one of my favorite reads of the year—and it was the first psychological thriller in ages to genuinely shock me with its plotting. Would her second release live up to my high expectations? Reader, I’m happy to report that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. In I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, Alice Feeney proves herself a master of page-turning, razor-sharp plotting—and she illustrates once again how sly and wicked her imagination really is. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE begins with a simple premise: a woman’s husband has gone missing. But in Feeney’s expert hands, nothing is as simple as it seems. Over the course of this addictive suspense novel, the author unspools a story of childhood trauma and long-held secrets, all building towards a genuinely jaw-dropping, “I-can’t-believe-she-went-there” finale that will knock even the most seasoned suspense reader sideways. If you, like me, are always on the hunt for psychological suspense that pushes the envelope, your next must-read is right here.

Central to any great psychological thriller is a compelling protagonist, and that’s exactly what Feeney gives her readers with this story’s leading lady, Aimee Sinclair. An actor by profession, Aimee has spent her entire life - both on-stage and off - assuming identities other than her own. Aimee isn’t keen on the spotlight, though; she’s very comfortable being that actress whose face you can’t quite place. She revels in the anonymity her job affords her, and loves being able to adopt and shed the identities of the characters she plays at whim. It’s a brilliant decision on Feeney’s part, giving her protagonist this profession; after all, who better for readers to follow in a psychological thriller than a woman whose job inherently involves a measure of deceit? Aimee is a chameleon, and it’s what has given her such success in her career—and it’s also what makes her such a compelling protagonist for us to follow. How well do we really know Aimee? How well does she really know herself? And if she’s such a successful actor, so adept at putting on the proverbial masks her job requires, could she perhaps be fooling all of us, too? Feeney creates a protagonist both endearing and potentially untrustworthy—a woman whose skills and profession makes her a perfect subject for a story of psychological suspense.

I KNOW WHO YOU ARE begins with a simple mystery: Aimee returns home one day to discover that her husband is missing. It’s a familiar premise, to be sure, but I can promise you’ve never read a “missing spouse” story that unfolds quite like this one. As readers venture into the heart of Aimee’s marriage, they are also slowly but surely granted glimpses of Aimee’s childhood… and what they discover there will shock and disturb. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE is told in dual timelines, and the intersection of the two will keep readers on the edge of their seats. In the present, readers follow Aimee as she struggles to keep a grip on her career - and on her sanity - while simultaneously searching for her husband and seeking to prove her innocence to the police. The deeper Aimee digs into her husband’s disappearance, the less sense everything seems to make—and the more suspicious the police become of our protagonist. Could Aimee have harmed her husband? Both the reader and Aimee herself will find themselves questioning everything they thought they knew.

Meanwhile, in the “past” timeline, readers meet Aimee in her childhood, and begin to uncover some of the precipitating factors that explain why Aimee is the way she is in her adulthood. When Aimee was a very young girl, she ran away from home—and the events that befell her as a result have a profound impact on her psychology for the rest of her life. This “past” timeline quickly became my personal favorite. It’s written with a huge amount of perception and insight, and authentically draws readers into the worldview of a young child. Feeney does a superb job writing from a young Aimee’s perspective; it’s downright fascinating to be placed inside the mind of a child in this way, and to witness her impressions of things that might seem very ordinary to us as adults. Trips to the bank, storytelling tapes, McDonald’s—these everyday things are, for a young Aimee, eye-opening and larger-than-life discoveries. The flipside is, of course, that we as adults also understand the horrors of what young Aimee endures far better than she can in the moment. When Aimee runs away from home, it sets in motion a series of events with ramifications that will be felt for the rest of her life. This “past” timeline is riveting and heartbreaking, and it contributes emotional and psychological depth to Feeney’s superb thriller. Stylistically, I would also be remiss not to note how beautifully Feeney weaves the “present” and “past” together; readers will notice how effortlessly chapters flow into one another, with the final line of one chapter being picked up by the first line of the next—a clever and seamless way of moving the reader between two time periods without missing a beat.

Now, we all know I can’t say too much about this story’s ending—but I will say that if you’re a reader who values a shocking plot twist, you will find a whole lot to love in I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Feeney has a knack for writing the kind of plot twist that is so very hard to come by: something jaw-dropping yet closely tied to clues left for the reader throughout the story. I never read psychological thrillers trying to predict the story’s ultimate reveal - I much prefer to just go along for the ride and see where the author will take me - but I can truly say I did not see this book’s finale coming. Not even close. Oh, and that finale? It’s one of the most twisted, disturbing, stomach-turning final reveals I’ve read in quite a while. This book might look innocuous, but it’s hiding within its pretty package a truly dark story of love, secrets, and revenge. Alice Feeney has done it again, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what she will dream up in her next 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:

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Flatiron Books (April 23, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250147344

ISBN-13: 978-1250147349

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.

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THE ISLAND by Ragnar Jonasson

(Hulda Hermannsdottir Series, Book 2)

Minotaur Books; 5/21/19

CBTB Rating: 5/5

The Verdict: stylish, gripping suspense

It’s getting hard to think of new ways to say how much I love Ragnar Jonasson’s crime novels, but allow me to try once more. Just when I think Jonasson has surely written what will be my forever favorite book of his, he goes and outdoes himself yet again—and that’s exactly what’s happened here. I absolutely loved Jonasson’s 2018 release THE DARKNESS, the launch of his new trilogy featuring Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir, and I can now decidedly say that I loved the second trilogy installment, THE ISLAND, even more. In THE ISLAND, Jonasson ratchets up the tension and bone-chilling atmosphere of this Icelandic mystery trilogy—and the result is a downright unputdownable crime novel that captivates as much with its spine-tingling suspense as it does with its clever plotting. Jonasson has a knack for writing crime fiction that blends the old with the new seamlessly, and his skill is on full display in THE ISLAND. Weaving together a years-old crime with a present-day “locked room mystery”, Jonasson masterfully crafts a complex story that is hugely readable and entertaining. And let’s not forget this trilogy’s fantastic protagonist, Hulda; any excuse to spend more time with this spirited and down-to-earth character is one I’ll jump at. It’s worth reading THE DARKNESS (Book 1 in the Hulda trilogy) before THE ISLAND, but don’t let that two-book commitment put you off: these books are well worth your time. Inventive and original, atmospheric and chilling, THE ISLAND is another stellar release from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.

Plot Summary:

Autumn of 1987 takes a young couple on a romantic trip in the Westfjords holiday―a trip that gets an unexpected ending and has catastrophic consequences.

Ten years later a small group of friends go for a weekend in an old hunting lodge in Elliðaey. A place completely cut off from the outside world, to reconnect. But one of them isn't going to make it out alive. And Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is determined to find the truth in the darkness.

Ragnar Jonasson burst onto the American scene with Snowblind and Nightblind, the first two novels in the Ari Thor thriller series, and the praise was overwhelming. With The Darkness, he launched a new series featuring a completely new sleuth, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police department. The Island is the second book in this series.

Some series you can easily dip in to at any given point; the Hulda Hermannsdottir series is not one of these. Jonasson has chosen to structure his trilogy in a very unusual way, and it’s one that makes it highly inadvisable to start anywhere other than the very beginning. The Hulda Hermannsdottir trilogy is told in reverse chronological order; Book 1 in the trilogy, THE DARKNESS, introduces readers to Hulda at the very end of her career with the Reykjavik police. In Book 2, THE ISLAND, we find Hulda in the middle of her career, seeking a promotion and grappling with the not-so-subtle misogyny of her male colleagues. If this structure for a trilogy sounds overly ambitious, not to worry: it is an ambitious structure, but it’s one that Jonasson handles masterfully. Through the trilogy’s unusual chronology, readers are given the opportunity to learn about a character in a totally new and fresh way. The Hulda we meet in THE DARKNESS is the sum of a lifetime of experiences, and in THE ISLAND, we begin to witness those experiences as they happen. It’s a truly fascinating way of learning about a character - almost like viewing a completed puzzle and then taking it apart to better understand how the puzzle pieces fit together. I already can’t wait to see what elements of Hulda’s character will be revealed in the final trilogy installment.

At the heart of THE ISLAND are two compelling mysteries woven together to create an unputdownable, cohesive crime story. In the 1980’s, readers follow a young couple whose romantic getaway to a remote cabin in the Icelandic Westfjords ends in catastrophe. Ten years later, in the story’s “present” timeline, a group of friends travel to the remote island of Ellidaey for a reunion. Against the beautiful, barren backdrop of this utterly uninhabited island, the group revisits past events that bound them all together - and long-held secrets begin to surface. When this reunion ends in tragedy, suspicion falls among the group; after all, the friends were the only people on the island. Who among them betrayed the others? Jonasson is known around the world for his Agatha Christie-inspired plots, and THE ISLAND relies heavily on the “locked room mystery” concept often associated with Christie’s And Then There Were None—but Jonasson makes it his own in THE ISLAND. Fans of Christie’s work will feel right at home in Jonasson’s latest release; fans of Nordic Noir will similarly find the atmosphere Jonasson develops in THE ISLAND right up their alley. True to the Scandinavian crime genre, atmosphere and sense of place are integral here, and the island of Ellidaey - the site of much of this story’s action - proves itself the ideal backdrop for a mystery. Better yet, Ellidaey is a real island, and it really is as remote as it is appears to be in Jonasson’s fiction. There’s something utterly compelling about a place like this; a small island with only one house on it, a place not regularly inhabited by humans, that can only be reached by boat. You couldn’t ask for a better locale for a crime story, and Jonasson takes full advantage of this location, its atmosphere, and the claustrophobic storytelling it can inspire in THE ISLAND.

Perhaps the greatest joy of reading THE ISLAND, though, is witnessing the masterful way author Jonasson ties the novel’s seemingly disparate plotlines together. With story threads including (but not limited to) Hulda’s investigation into the tragedy on Ellidaey, a decade-old mystery surrounding a shocking event in the Westfjords, a family marked by tragedy, and the inner workings of a group of old friends whose reunion goes awry, THE ISLAND is nothing if not a complicated story. There were times when I sincerely wondered how on earth these threads would come together (I’ll freely admit, there were a couple times I had to go back and re-read passages to be sure I was keeping the stories straight in my own head!), but Jonasson never lets this story’s complexity get away from him. The farther you read into the book, the more gripped you will be by the tantalizing way Jonasson slowly but surely reveals the plotlines’ intersections. It’s incredibly difficult to discuss these intersections without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say, when they are finally revealed, the results are jaw-dropping and hugely satisfying. Jonasson has proven himself once more to be a master of the kind of clever, unfussy-yet-shocking plotting that defines the legacy of Agatha Christie.

Sense of place, chilling suspense, intricate plotting—Ragnar Jonasson’s THE ISLAND has it all. Jonasson ups the ante in his latest release, infusing his newest crime novel with a dark atmosphere, breathless suspense, and a masterfully crafted plot. I wasn’t sure he could top the stellar launch of this trilogy, THE DARKNESS, but I’m very happy to be proven wrong, because top it he has. It seems that every time I review the newest release by this author, I claim to have found my new favorite book he has written… and I’m not breaking that tradition just yet. THE ISLAND is an impeccable, stylish crime novel—genuinely original and impossible to put down.

PS. Catch my full review of Book 1 in the Hulda Hermannsdottir trilogy, THE DARKNESS, here!

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: The Hulda Series (Book 2)

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 21, 2019)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1250193370

ISBN-13: 978-1250193377

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.

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CBTB’s Most-Anticipated Crime Books Hitting Shelves May - July 2019

Dear crime readers: ‘tis the season for another “most anticipated” list! 2019 has already delivered a whole slew of stellar new crime reads, and there is so much more to come as we look towards the summer months. Between May, June, and July 2019, we crime readers will be treated to some of the best the genre has to offer: from new Nordic Noir to page-turning psychological thrillers and dark stories of revenge, there’s a little something for everyone on sale in the coming months! Today’s blog post will be focused on crime fiction releasing from May 2019 through July 2019 -- aka all the crime books you need to take you from spring into summer with a jam-packed TBR list. And not to worry: I will be sharing additional “most anticipated” lists for late summer, fall, and winter 2019 down the road, too!

Without further ado, let’s dive on in to my picks for Most-Anticipated Crime Books Hitting Shelves May - July 2019!

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 in this post.

Most-Anticipated Crime Books Hitting Shelves May - July 2019



May ReleasesTHE ISLAND by Ragnar JonassonMay 21st, 2019 | Minotaur

Why I’m Excited: I’ve been fortunate enough to read an early copy of THE ISLAND already, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. This is book two in a trilogy (and you’ll want to read book one - THE DARKNESS - before digging into this one), and it’s become apparent that Jonasson truly just gets better with each book he writes. Atmospheric suspense set in Iceland, THE ISLAND delivers chills and masterful plotting from its first page to its last.

Plot Details: Autumn of 1987 takes a young couple on a romantic trip in the Westfjords holiday―a trip that gets an unexpected ending and has catastrophic consequences.

Ten years later a small group of friends go for a weekend in an old hunting lodge in Elliðaey. A place completely cut off from the outside world, to reconnect. But one of them isn't going to make it out alive. And Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is determined to find the truth in the darkness.

Ragnar Jonasson burst onto the American scene with Snowblind and Nightblind, the first two novels in the Ari Thor thriller series, and the praise was overwhelming. With The Darkness, he launched a new series featuring a completely new sleuth, Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykjavik Police department. The Island is the second book in this series.

The Island: A Thriller (The Hulda Series) By Ragnar Jonasson INTO THE JUNGLE by Erica FerencikMay 28th, 2019 | Gallery Books

Why I’m Excited: It’s been a couple of years since I read Erica Ferencik’s previous thriller THE RIVER AT NIGHT, but I can still remember what a genuinely fun and engrossing read that was. In THE RIVER AT NIGHT, Ferencik took a group of ordinary friends and put them on a disastrous rafting trip; in INTO THE JUNGLE, Ferencik takes her readers into the jungle of Bolivia. THE RIVER AT NIGHT was edge-of-your-seat entertainment, and I’m betting Ferencik will deliver another pulse-pounding survival story here.

Plot Details: Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle--its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

Primal, gripping, and terrifying, Into the Jungle features Erica Ferencik’s signature “visceral, white-knuckle” (Entertainment Weekly) prose that will sink its fangs into you and not let go.

Into the Jungle By Erica Ferencik June ReleasesBEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT by Malin Persson GiolitoJune 4th, 2019 | Other Press

Why I’m Excited: Show me a buzzworthy new Scandinavian crime novel, and I’ll show you a book that’s on my must-read list. Malin Persson Giolito is best known for her award-winning crime novel QUICKSAND, which was just adapted for Netflix. Now, in her newest release, she’s back with a gripping legal thriller that follows a female lawyer who attempts to prove the innocence of a convicted killer. This one looks tailor-made for me!

Plot Details: I'm giving you a chance to achieve every lawyer's dream, said Sophia Weber's old professor. Freeing an innocent man.

Thirteen years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl was murdered. Doctor Stig Ahlin was sentenced to life in prison. But no one has forgotten the brutal crime. Ahlin is known as one of the most ruthless criminals.

When Sophia Weber discovers critical flaws in the murder investigation, she decides to help Ahlin. But Sophia's doing her utmost to get her client exonerated arouses many people's disgust. And the more she learns, the more difficult her job becomes. What kind of man is her client really? What has he done? And will she ever know the truth?

Beyond All Reasonable Doubt: A Novel By Malin Persson Giolito THOSE PEOPLE by Louise CandlishJune 11th, 2019 | Berkley

Why I’m Excited: Yet another CBTB favorite author returning with a new crime novel in 2019! Louise Candlish’s OUR HOUSE was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and I can’t wait to see what she’s up to next in her newest release. I love psychological thrillers that push “ordinary” relationships and situations to dark extremes, and THOSE PEOPLE appears to be exactly that kind of read.

Plot Details: From the author of the international bestseller Our House, a new novel of twisty domestic suspense asks, “Could you hate your neighbor enough to plot to kill him?”

Lowland Way is the suburban dream. The houses are beautiful, the neighbors get along, and the kids play together on weekends.

But when Darren and Jodie move into the house on the corner, they donʼt follow the rules. They blast music at all hours, begin an unsightly renovation, and run a used-car business from their yard. It doesn’t take long for an all-out war to start brewing.

Then, early one Saturday, a horrific death shocks the street. As police search for witnesses, accusations start flying—and everyone has something to hide.

Those People By Louise Candlish CONVICTION by Denise MinaJune 18th, 2019 | Mulholland Books

Why I’m Excited: Here’s an embarrassing confession… I have yet to read a book by Denise Mina. But! That’s all about to change, and I couldn’t be more excited. CONVICTION looks right up my alley; this crime story revolves around true crime podcasts, and follows a protagonist who finds herself on the run, the secrets from her past threatening to catch up with her. I love its cover, its plot, everything—and I can’t wait to dig in.

Plot Details: The day Anna McDonald's quiet, respectable life explodes starts off like all the days before: Packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.

Reeling, desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people's problems are much better than one's own -- a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy. But this case actually is Anna's problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she's taken great pains to leave behind. And she is convinced that she knows what really happened.

Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop, a meddling neighbor intervenes, and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened -- and in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, she goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.

Conviction By Denise Mina A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EdvardssonJune 25th, 2019 | Celadon Books

Why I’m Excited: Legal thrillers (particularly Scandinavian legal thrillers!) seem to be having a bit of a moment this spring, and I’m not complaining at all. I’ve been following the buzz surrounding A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY for quite a while now, and am in the midst of reading this book as I write this roundup - and so far, it’s easy to see why this book is catching people’s eye. Written with intentionality and insight, A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is thoughtful and thought-provoking suspense.

Plot Details: Eighteen-year-old Stella 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?

A Nearly Normal Family: A Novel By M.T. Edvardsson July ReleasesLOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley SagerJuly 2nd, 2019 | Dutton

Why I’m Excited: Riley Sager is brilliant at blending modern-day suspense with homages to old-school horror - a combination that I absolutely love. In his newest psychological thriller, he takes readers into a luxury apartment building in New York where apartment-sitters have a habit of disappearing. His books FINAL GIRLS and THE LAST TIME I LIED have been instant-favorites for me, and I’m confident LOCK EVERY DOOR will be as well!

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.

Lock Every Door: A Novel By Riley Sager KNIFE by Jo NesbøJuly 9th, 2019 | Knopf

Why I’m Excited: This one needs no explanation! Jo Nesbø has been my favorite author for years and years, and a new installment in his fan-favorite Harry Hole series is always reason to celebrate. But KNIFE is something special. I may or may not have already had the chance to read a very early version of this book, and it’s vintage Nesbø in all the best ways; gritty, emotional, and downright gripping. The king of Scandinavian crime fiction has outdone himself here.

Plot Details: Brilliant, audaciously rogue..

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A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EdvardssonCeladon Books; Available June 25, 2019

It’s hard to believe it, but summer is right around the corner - and it’s bringing with it a whole crop of hugely exciting new crime fiction releases! Right at the top of my personal list of most-anticipated Summer 2019 reads is today’s featured title: A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson, releasing in the U.S. June 25th, 2019. This Scandinavian psychological thriller is gathering major buzz; it’s been on my radar for quite a while now, and I’m so excited to finally be digging in to it this weekend. Thanks to the book’s publisher, I’m also thrilled to be able to share with CBTB readers a sneak peek into what’s sure to be one of summer’s hottest crime reads! In today’s blog post, you can get the inside scoop on A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY, including plot details, advance praise, and an excerpt from the book’s prologue and first chapter.

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY first caught my eye because (no surprise here!) the author is Swedish, and I’m always on the lookout for new Scandinavian crime fiction to love. But the more I learned about this book, the more intrigued I became. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY isn’t your typical Nordic crime novel: this is not a story about a police officer chasing a killer. Instead, A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a psychological thriller that takes readers up close and personal with an ordinary family who is thrown into an unthinkable situation when their teenage daughter is accused of murder. How well do you know your family? And how far would you go to protect the ones you love? A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY sounds right up my alley, and I’m absolutely thrilled to share this preview of the book with CBTB readers. Read on for plot details and an excerpt from A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson!

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. EdvardssonAbout the Book:

M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping psychological 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 each other.

Eighteen-year-old Stella 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?

"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

"A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a brilliant thriller, another masterpiece of Scandinavian noir. It is riveting as the complex plot unfolds layer after layer and twists the well-drawn characters to a startling conclusion. This is crime fiction at its best."―Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling crime novelist

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

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY By M.T. EdvardssonPrologue

The district courthouse is in downtown Lund, kitty-corner from the police building, a stone’s throw from Central Station. Anyone who lives in Lund passes the courthouse regularly, but most go their whole lives without setting foot inside the building. Until very recently, that was true for me as well.

Now I’m sitting on a bench outside Courtroom 2, and the monitor in front of me informs me that a trial is under way in a homicide case.

My wife is inside, on the other side of the door. Before we walked into the courthouse and went through security, we stopped on the stairs outside and held each other. My wife squeezed my hands so hard they trembled and she told me it is no longer up to us, that the decision is in other hands now. We both know that isn’t entirely true.

The loudspeaker crackles, and I am struck by an acute wave of nausea. I hear my name. It’s my turn now. I wobble as I rise from the bench and a security guard opens the door for me. He nods, but his expression doesn’t betray a single thought or emotion. There is no room for that here.

Courtroom 2 is larger than I’d expected. My wife is squeezed in among the audience members. She looks tired, exhausted. There are traces of tears on her cheeks.

An instant later, I see my daughter.

She’s pale and thinner than I remember; her hair looks tangled and wispy, and she looks at me with dull eyes. It takes all my strength not to run over and throw my arms around her and whisper that Dad is here, that I’m not going to let go of her until this is all over.

The presiding judge welcomes me, and my immediate impression of him is favorable. He looks alert, yet there is something sensitive about him. He appears to be both sympathetic and authoritative. I don’t think the lay judges are likely to oppose his ruling when it comes. What’s more, I know he, too, is a father.

Since I’m a close relative of the defendant, I’m not allowed to take the oath. I know the court must hear my testimony in full knowledge that my daughter is the defendant in this case. But I also know that who I am, and not least my occupation, means that the court will consider what I have to say to be trustworthy.

The lead judge gives the defense attorney the floor. I take a deep breath. What I’m about to say will affect so many lives for so many years to come. What I’m about to say might decide everything.

I still haven’t decided what I’m going to say.

1

We were a perfectly ordinary family. We had interesting, well-paid jobs and an extensive circle of friends. We kept active in our free time thanks to our interest in sports and culture. On Fridays we ate takeout in front of Idol and dozed off on the sofa before the voting was over. On Saturdays we ate lunch downtown or at a shopping center. We watched handball or went to the movies; we enjoyed a bottle of wine with good friends. We fell asleep each night cuddled close together. Sundays were spent in the forest or at a museum, having long talks on the phone with our parents, or curled up on the sofa with a novel. We often rounded off Sunday evenings sitting up in bed with papers, binders, and computers strewn everywhere, preparing for the upcoming workweek. On Monday nights, my wife went to yoga and on Thursdays I played basketball. We had a mortgage, which we dutifully made payments on; we sorted our trash and used our blinkers and kept to the speed limit and always returned library books on time.

This year we took vacation late: early July to mid-August. After several lovely summers in Italy, we had spent the last few years scheduling our international trips in the wintertime so we could spend summers relaxing at home and going on shorter excursions along the coast to visit friends and relatives. This time we also rented a cottage on the island of Orust.

Stella spent just about her whole summer working at H&M. She was saving up for a long trip to Asia this winter. I still hope she manages to go. You could say that Ulrika and I rediscovered each other this summer. It sounds like such a cliché, almost too cheesy; no one believes it’s possible to fall in love with your wife all over again after twenty years. As if the years raising a child were merely an aside in our love story. As if this is what we’ve been waiting for. But that’s how it feels, anyway.

Kids are a full-time job. When they’re babies you’re waiting for them to become independent, and you spend all your time worrying that they’ll choke on something or fall on their face. Then comes preschool and you worry because they’re out of your sight, because they might fall off a swing set or fail their next check-up. Then they start school and you worry that they won’t fit in, won’t make any friends, and everything is homework and riding lessons, handball and pajama parties. They start high school and there are even more friends, parties and conflicts, talks with tutors, all the chauffeuring around. You worry about drugs and drinking, that they’ll end up in bad company, and the teenage years go by like a soap opera at 190 kilometers per hour. Then suddenly you’re standing there with an adult child and you think you’ll finally get to stop worrying.

This summer, at least, we managed several long runs without worrying about Stella. Family life had never seemed so harmonious. Then everything changed.

From A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson. Copyright (c) 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC.

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.

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