Category: Suspense

Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo


While this concluding volume is not a heist story, like the first one, it is still filled with plot twists and surprises. Our gang of six teens return to fictional Ketterdam (think historical Amsterdam) with a mission to get what they are owed. But instead of conning a tourist (or pigeon), they are up against the wealthiest merchant in the city. Bardugo tells a ripping good yarn, and her world-building is like no other. There is terrifying violence in the story, so I recommend 17 and up.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo


A terrific heist novel, related only tangentially to Bardugo’s earlier trilogy. When a merchant wants to shut down a new drug that could literally change the world, he calls on the Dregs, a gang from the wrong side of town led by a scrappy and powerful 17-year-old named Kaz. As in any good heist story, Kaz assembles his idiosyncratic team of six, and as they proceed with their plan, we learn more about each of these teens and their traumatic childhoods. This is a twisty and intricate plot, and kudos to Bardugo for making each step in the plan as clear as she does.

In this as in Bardugo’s prior trilogy, her world-building has echos from Amsterdam, from Finland, and from Russia. There is no room for Anglo-centrists in this world. You will want to snap up the next book instantly – this is not a stand-alone. Recommended for 16 and up for violence and childhood trauma.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin


One of the few times when the phrase “shocking conclusion” has merit. This series has only grown more intricate, and with this, the finale to the trilogy, we are steeped in the realm of nightmare. Having Mara locked and restrained in a psychiatric institute, drugged repeatedly against her will, with no one believing the truth, is all very dark and makes for tough reading. The story does not stay in the darkness indefinitely, but it remains harrowing and intricately plotted. I recommend it, since I was unable to put it down, but this is among the darkest YAs I’ve ever read. Recommended for 17 and up, due to sex, violence, and nightmare fuel.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin


his YA series has grown much darker in this second novel in the series. 17-year-old heroine Mara Dyer remains an unreliable narrator as her life seems to crumble around her. With this novel, the series takes a leap into suspense, almost into horror.

Mara and her boyfriend Noah are part of the “kids against the world” trope, but it’s made much more realistic than usual, since none of the adults in her world believe her because she’s mentally ill. Is she really hallucinating? Has she made it all up? Or is she being gaslighted by parties unknown? Since the narrative is first person, we don’t know those answers either, and we feel the tension and fear along with Maya. For age 17 and up, due to sex, violence and the fear factor.

It Takes a Hero, by Elizabeth Boyle


Not my favorite of the genre, this bodice-ripper is trying to do too much: romance, mystery, suspense. I liked the romance quite a bit, though parts of it felt as overwrought as the heroine’s novels. But there were too many side characters introduced too quickly for the whodunnit to be as mysterious as it wants to be, and the suspense was brief and not very suspenseful. Sloppy editing (ring a peal, not ring a peel) added to the problems. Meh.

Her Dark Curiousity, by Megan Shepherd


Like her first novel, a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau, this one is also a retelling, but of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Interestingly, she chooses to continue with her characters from the first novel, so this becomes a true sequel rather than a stand-alone.

Juliet Moreau has returned to London, pining for her lost love, until she encounters a different man from the island, one whose personal conflicts are resulting in murder. I struggled with this section of the book, as the brilliant Juliet is forced to repeatedly make stupid choices out of her affection for a man. Infuriating. She comes back into her own by the bloody conclusion of the novel, but my own eye-rolling early on almost caused me to stop reading. For 18 and up due to gore.

The Stranger You Seek, by Amanda Kyle Williams

This is a strong, well-written book, but it is so, so not for me. This first book in a mystery/suspense series by Atlanta author Williams has lots going for it. Its Atlanta setting is immersive (you can feel the Georgia heat)and it really establishes the city as a second character. And our terrific heroine, private eye Keye Street, is an Asian-American Southerner – tiny but tough, and brainy but fighting her own demons. But the hunt for a twisted serial killer is seriously disturbing, and while I’d love to have drinks with Keye, I can’t hang out in her books.