“The First Conception” is a very hard book to read for obvious and not so obvious reasons. The obvious: right in the synopsis we know that this is a revenge story told from the perspective of the female survivor—she was raped and abused sexually and physically her whole childhood and well into her adult years. This “inspired” her to take away the ability to conceive for the whole world. Now, I love a good revenge plot where the MC is less than “good”, especially when it’s over something as heinous as abusing a child so repeatedly. Also, there are your trigger warnings for rape, graphic violence against both women and men, sexual assault against children, spousal abuse, and if topics of infertility are sensitive for you, then this may not be a good fit. Granted, some of these warnings make sense for the genre—it’s billed as a thriller, after all—and while that’s fine, I think this book got to the point of being gratuitous.
I love true crime, and I read and watch a lot of documentaries about different serial killers; some who have been caught and others who took their secrets to their graves. It’s often easy to forget that True Crime is Non-Fiction—that you are reading about someone, or multiple someone’s, very personal tragedy. You get that filter of time where something horrific has occurred a hundred years ago, and it’s easy to forget that these were real people who had something horrendous happen to them. That isn’t the case with “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”. McNamara never lets you forget that this man, this serial rapist and murderer, is a real person, a real terror that did his prowling up and down California for decades. The people he tormented are still alive, some of them anyway, or their families remain to carry the burden of not having answers as to why, why, why? Until recently. McNamara was obsessive about tracking down clues, weeding through the red herrings of this long standing crime. She didn’t care who caught this man, as long as someone did. She was tenacious and dogged about following leads and working with investigators to follow up on things she found peculiar, but weren’t explored at the time of the crime. Unfortunately, she died half way through writing the book, which is bad for a number of reasons.
“The Best Possible Angle” is a book full of suspense and classic “who done it” mystery vibes right from the start. Kendrick, the main character, is on the cusp of achieving his dreams, but then tragedy hits and keeps hitting, and the people around the burgeoning movie star quickly show their true colors. Everyone in Kendrick’s immediate circle has something to hide and gain, and as one secret leads to another, everyone starts threatening betrayal, and things, well, escalate. And come the end of the story, you wish more characters had been punished. The story starts with a gruesome murder that becomes clear as to whom died at around the 60% mark of the story, but that’s far from the only murder cover up going on in the book, and those get teased out well before that point.
“Unsanctioned Eyes” was like watching an action movie, but you know, reading. It’s got flavors that reminded me of “The Bourne Identity” but also solid military drama. Except from the “wrong” side of the aisle. Our main character, Quinn, does not work for the good guys. She is, in fact, a terrorist. She has reasons (which are kind of teased at towards the end of the novel) but the first book in the Dragonfly series is about Quinn’s character arc. The synopsis doesn’t really give a great idea of what you’re stepping into when you pick up Merritt’s book, so humor me as I try to elaborate, while staying far away from spoilers. You see “Unsanctioned Eyes” is the story of how Quinn, a top assassin working for a radical organization, finds herself in the precarious position of no longer being able to trust her handlers and the series of events that lead to that distrust. It’s how when one bad mission has her taking a hostage she wasn’t meant to keep has her questioning if the people she works for actually care about her life, and if she can continue on in the organization once she starts remembering the person she was before she became the Dragonfly.
What kind of secrets do families keep from one another? Are there truly some that should never be revealed? What is family actually worth? These are some of the very hard, and often times uncomfortable, questions that Goodson brings up in her debut novella. Nothing is as it seems when family members come together to make good on their grandfather/father’s last wish in order to get their inheritance: they all must work together to clean out the old family home. What transpired was such an emotional roller coaster I was completely unprepared for it, but I so loved the ride!
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