Reviewed: “To the Lions” by Holly Watt

To the Lions is a stunning book.

Holly Watt has created a story that will pull you in, that will haunt you, that will make you think about horrific things that could so easily be reality. And maybe they are. I wouldn’t be surprised.

This thriller, seemingly the start of a series, focuses on Casey Benedict. Casey is an investigative reporter based in London who is adept at going undercover for the sorts of stories that do capture the attention of the world as they are released in troves and mountains of information that bring down the powerful, wealthy people around the world.

Watt is herself is an investigative reporter in England who worked on many exposes that have grabbed the headlines for weeks at a time. This lends a deeper layer to the novel, because it is easy to see the truth and reality in the detail she goes into. And it isn’t a level of detail that even comes close to dull or boring. It is intense.

I’m going to say a little bit about the plot that drives the story. It is not a spoiler, because it is made very clear from very early on that it happens. The purpose of the story, the thing that carries the narrative, is how Casey and Ed, who is inherently fascinating, uncover the the horrifying plot and how far it reaches.

Also intense is the plot itself – one in which the ultra-wealthy, for reasons that appear to be little more than the proverbial ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, travel to Libya to hunt. They hunt humans. Refugees, to be specific. They stay in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s former palaces and then use high-powered rifles to shoot refugees in a refuge camp in the valley below.

Can’t you imagine that happening today?

I can.

I received a copy of To the Lions through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

“Pretty Ugly Lies” by Pamela Crane

haven’t read Big Little Lies or seen the show but it’s hard not to have a general sense of what that story is and I think it’s pretty clear that Pamela Crane’s Pretty Ugly Lies is meant to read and liked by the same people who flock to that.

This is an absolutely fine thing because if you like what I understand that story is, if you like psychological thrillers based on the friendships of women, and if you don’t mind a little murder and adultery, you will absolutely want to read this book. It’s a quick read, it’s a pretty good read, and I had fun reading it.

(things after this point are details of the book so… reader beware, a spoiler might slip out)

It starts with a woman sitting next in a pool of her husband’s blood as she holds his cold, dead hand and thinks of how the blood of her children is on her hands too. And then things escalate very quickly.

It does go fast and, to be honest, I wanted it to be longer. The tagline on the cover is “Four Lives. Four Lies. One Killer Among Them.” and, I’m not going to lie, that’s a lot to pack into just over 200 pages.

June, Jo, Shayla, and Ellie are the four friends. They have four husbands – Mike, Jay, Trent, and Denny. There are… eleven kids among them, I think. But I only remembered this near the end of the book, and a lot of time early on was spent thinking “wait, who is married to Denny???” Basically, I wish I couldn’t known these women better, slower.

They all live on Oleander Way in North Carolina. June and Ellie have been friends since high school. I think Jo and Shayla are friends, or maybe just acquaintances? The four don’t all know each other more than polite neighborly interactions.

But the four all have secrets.

Hidden love for a friend, adultery, trying to poison her cheating husband with oleander, and doubts about her marriage that come back to haunt her (I mixed up the order so it does not at all match the way I listed the friends, you’re welcome).

These things make for an interesting story, one I’d have loved to read if it was twice as long – but this isn’t my usual genre so maybe these stories do keep it short. Given the brevity, it was hard to feel attached to any one woman or the other, hard to root for them to overcome their secrets and their lies.

That is not to say that things don’t reach a satisfying conclusion because they absolutely do.

(I received a copy of Pretty Ugly Lies from NetGalley & Bloodhound Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “They’re Watching” by Gregg Hurwitz

Need a good thriller to read? Try They’re Watching by Gregg Hurwitz.

I read thrillers, sometimes. But they aren’t really ‘my’ genre of choice. In search of something new and different to read, I came across this book and the summary on Amazon sounded interesting enough to catch my attention. I figured it’d be a good choice to pass the time.

It was so much more than that.

Patrick Davis, the main character, is a failed screenwriter who is being stalked, although the term is too light for what happens in the book, by mysterious figures who seem intent on either driving him crazy, framing him for murder(s), or killing him. Or maybe all of the above.

From the start, the story seems as if it could be trite, boring, and even overdone. It isn’t.

It kept me on the edge of my seat. It was one of those books where you want to draw it out so it won’t be over so fast but, at the same time, you want to read it really fast to find out what happens. A double edged sword type of thing, really.

I read it in one week.

I had to. I kept guessing what was happening and what the outcome might be. I was always wrong. And I didn’t even care because the reality of the story was that good.

You can’t help but feel for Patrick and his wife, Ariana. They really are ‘every couple’ in that they have their ups and downs. They would have been a compelling couple in any story but when ‘every couple’ is being stalked and threatened, you feel even worse for them. I was never not sure if I liked them, I always did. Other likable characters included the people Patrick works with.

For the rest of the characters, though, you aren’t ever quite sure where their loyalties lie. There were times when I was firmly in someone’s corner only to find myself, a few pages later, saying “oh my god, did he really just do that?!” And there were other times when I thought I knew why I didn’t like someone only to end up wondering why bad things happen to good people. That’s a mark of a truly good story for me.

When it’s all said and done, if you like thrillers, espionage, cliffhangers, relatable characters, and downright good stories … They’re Watching is the book for you. I definitely plan to read it again and I’m 99% sure I’m going to read more by Gregg Hurwitz.