Psychological thrillers done right (but mostly terribly wrong)

Any book that falls even remotely into the category of a psychological thriller is immediately given a chance by me. These books are my favorite. I don’t care if it’s an adult psych. thriller or a YA. I’m reading it.

However, the thing with these books is that it can be either insanely good, or… terribly bad. It’s my opinion that you can’t really fall into the middle with psychological thrillers, because for the book to be good, the “thrill” needs to be complex enough to get my psyche working (hence, the name). If the writing is sub par, the plot line can still make up for it most of the time. BUT!! Whenever the mystery is done wrong, the whole book is ruined. The writing could be absolutely phenomenal and I’m still going to be pissed that I wasn’t properly intrigued by the mystery going on in the book.

So needless to say, this can be a very frustrating category.

Because I have a never ending list of reviews to send out into the blogosphere (cringing at this name), I’m going to take this opportunity to hit you with several book reviews at once (spoiler alert: they are all psych thrillers! who would’ve guessed?).


Book Details (6).pngFriends and Other Liars

Synopsis:

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she’s built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She’s dreading the funeral – and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby’s secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything…


My review:

Rating: 2.5 stars

This had so much potential in the beginning. The prologue and the first two chapters were so enticing and compelling that I was genuinely excited for what was to come. But alas, most things will disappoint you sooner or later.

So this story is about a group of people who were all great friends in high school. They named themselves, “the crew” (which was an extremely cheesy thing to hear them continue to call themselves over and over againespecially as adults. It was all “loyalty to the crew” and “og crew member”. I’m still kind of cringing) and consisted of: Ally, Ruby, Danny, Murphy, and Emmett. There were, at any given time, some girlfriends added to the list, as well as Ally’s long term boyfriend Aaron, who was adopted into the outer circle of the inner circle, if that makes any sense (just think about it).

My first issue with this novel was that there were an overload of characters to try to remember. This book has a very precise Pretty Little Liars vibe, which was really working for me in the beginning. But when you add in one too many characters, or say, two or three too many, it gets a little hard to keep up with everyone.

So back to the plot. The story starts us off ten years after high school at Danny’s funeral. Yep, a “crew” member has died. Ruby has come back from New York where she has been (in addition to London) since she graduated high school. While most of the other members of the group kept up with each other pretty well because they all still lived in their hometown, Ruby had completely cut off her past life and the people in it.

After Danny’s funeral, the remaining member’s find out that Danny left a little “game” for them. Apparently he knew all of their secrets, though the others didn’t, and he basically reminded them that all dark things come to light (this is a repeated line I’m stealing from the book because I kind of love it).

The rest of the story is kind of this big… mess. A mess of drama left over from high school that you don’t usually have to be drug through when you decide to pick up an adult aged book. There were a bunch of 28 year olds still bickering about things that happened between them when they were seniors in high school. Not my idea of a good time, personally.

So, the secrets all held a level of importance, but it all felt like nothing by the time they were finally revealed because we spent 80% of the book reading about crap that didn’t matter and how important it was for each person to keep their secret. I was getting extremely bored with the book but just kept thinking that the build up for these secrets would make it all worth.
description

Among the mass of characters, I decided that Steph was my favorite (I know I haven’t mentioned her name in the list of ‘crew members’ but that’s because she’s not in the crew! Yes, that’s right, my favorite character was on the outer circle, friends). I decided I hated Danny severely at the end of the book. The fact of the matter is, in Danny’s case, he wanted to blame everyone around him for not taking care of him (when he should’ve been taking care of himself), and he left behind a cruel game to embarrass his “friends” and keep them in a constant state of turmoil. None of the secrets had anything to do with Danny’s death. He was just a selfish, angry guy who died wanting to blame other’s for the way his life went. I also despised Murphy, who (without giving away too many spoiler details) is just as selfish and at the end of the day, seems to care most about himself.

While there wasn’t anything particularly antagonizing about Ally, Emmett, Ruby, or Aaron (do you see how many characters I just had to list???), I liked Steph the most because she by far the best person in the whole damn story. She was forced to be okay with her wedding reception being turned into a mass of (highschool) drama. At one point she thinks to herself, “I get the sense I’ve passed some kind of test by not throwing a fit about all of this.”and um??? She shouldn’t have to be tested by her HUSBAND at her WEDDING to see if she can put up with all his dramatic, teens- in-adult-bodies friends. Sorry about it.

Overall, it just wasn’t there for me. In the beginning I thought it was, I really did. But it felt less like a mystery and more like an ongoing battle between adults who are all equally as dramatic as they were at 18.


Book Details (4)Girl Last Seen

Synopsis:

Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots. I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago. If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact… I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow. Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl. And now there is.


My Review:

Rating: 1.75 stars

boy do I hate doing negative reviews 😦
I sat on this one for a few days to really think about how I felt and I’ve decided that I really can’t talk myself into liking it more. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I’m used to reading Gillian Flynn books that keep me equally entertained and hanging in suspense and my bias has taken over when I read books that feel like a lesser imitation of that.

The premise of this was honestly interesting enough for me to put down a book I’d been wanting to purchase for weeks in favor of buying this one on impulse, even though I’d never heard of it. It really looked like my cup of tea. But I think that the premise offers something that the book doesn’t necessarily: a mystery to solve. I mean, sure, in the back of our heads we as readers are aware that Olivia Shaw is missing and that this is supposed to be what we are focused on. But it doesn’t actually work out that way.

Our main character, Laine (or Ella) was also a victim of a kidnapping when she was much younger. The book seems to make a point to focus on this far more than the active kidnapping of Olivia Shaw. Since Nina Laurin found a way to connect the two aductions, that didn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing at first. Maybe, through solving Laine’s case, we can solve Olivia’s! Which, yea… happens. BUT, in the mean time we’re stuck in Laine’s constant, boring, drug induced haze of stupidity. Did I mention drug induced? Because there was an insanely unoriginal and boring amount of drugs in this book.

All of the characters were so two-dimensional that it was honestly a little upsetting. There was so much predictability and lack of character development that it was frustrating. The adults in this book were honestly cringe worthy in their shadiness. The detective gave me the absolute worst vibes ever (though, any grown man who can be attracted to a woman that he knew, as a grown man, while they were a child, usually gives me bad vibes). There was absolutely no build up to who took Olivia… mostly because the book focuses far too much on Laine. This pretty much resulted in a complete lack of shock value, for me at least. Even without talking about Olivia and her abduction, as they should be, it was insanely easy to pinpoint who the “bad guy” was.

Unfortunately, I was glad to reach the end on this one. I’m certainly up to checking out Laurin’s other book, What My Sister Knew since it has noticeably better reviews, but this one will certainly not be a reread for me.


Book Details (5)
The Assassin Game

Synopsis:

Who will be left after lights out?

Tag, you’re it…

It’s 4:00 a.m. when they come for me. I am already awake, strung out on the fear that they will come, and the fear that they won’t. When I finally hear the click of the latch on the dormitory door, I have only a second to brace myself before—

At Cate’s isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game—it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “Killed” during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the “Killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join the Assassins’ Guild, she know it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she’s the next target?


My review:

Rating: 4 stars

I have something to admit… I picked this book out because of its cover. I know, I know, that’s breaking the cardinal rule but…. this is total cover porn to me.

ANYWHO, wow this was a wild ride! Less like a roller coaster ride and more like a hayride through a haunted attraction at the end of October when all the witches and ghouls have come out to play. Or, maybe more accurately, the chainsaw swinging Jason posers.

This actually managed to spook me a little!! I can’t tell you how much books that manage to bring you into the frightening insanity with them should be treasured. I caught myself being extra aware of my surroundings while in the process of reading this book. I’m certainly not in any killer game, but this one really gets you in that mindset.

Boarding schools, covert games, and serial killers= such a good time!!!

I’ve been on a mission to find a good mystery to solve in a book and ya know what? This one gives you TWO mysteries!! Who’s the Killer in the game? Who’s the Killer in real life? Neither of these puzzles felt insanely predictable or easy to solve, either. This is honestly pretty rare if you ask me, because I find that most authors are pretty bad about dropping too many hints throughout the book to really put you on the right track. But McKay planned this one out so well. Honestly, I had no idea who the Killer in the game was, and I had barely even considered it an option for who the real life Killer turns out to be. Finding a good way to actually trick your readers without just being confusing and/or boring is not something that all authors possess. But I’ll say it, Kirsty McKay does.

While the reasoning behind the real attempted murders didn’t actually do it for me, the rest did. There was so much shadiness going on in this book that it kept you suspicious of everyone, and that’s always the way to go with a good mystery, if you ask me.

Yay for finally finding a worthwhile mystery to solve!! 🙂


Well my friends, we have reached the end of this longgggg experiment where I attempt to a find a good mystery that actually meets my impossibly high standards.

Have you read any of these books? Do you like a good mystery? Talk to me 🙂

7 thoughts on “Psychological thrillers done right (but mostly terribly wrong)

    1. It’s honestly one of my favorite genres! They have to be done right though, or else it’s more frustrating to read them than enjoyable. I’m so glad you’re adding it to your TBR list! It’s a really good book and it’s a quick read, too 🙂

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