I have a confession.
Against popular belief, I did not come into the reading world kicking and screaming for all the fantasy books. I did, of course, read fantasy most of all, but I always yearned to read something darker, dirtier, meaner than the horror or violence that can be, sometimes, read in fantasy novels. I was introduced to thrillers at the young age of fourteen, and never looked back since. When I’m not reading fantasy, I can be found scouring the thriller shelves in used book shops, looking for the next read to send my heart racing and my palms sweaty.The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on March 9th 2017
A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls. Beautiful. Rich. Mysterious. Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won't when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...
I was sent The Roanoke Girls by the publicist on Monday and on Tuesday, I made the mistake of starting it. I read all 288 pages in one sitting, and couldn’t stop thinking about Lane and the other Roanoke girls all night. Amy Engel has weaved a mystery unputdownable from the very first page, until you close the book and all you can think is: this is the most poisonous, wondrous, screwed up story I have ever read.
There are plot twists, and character twists, and mind twists and by the end, you’re a pretzel, which is awesome except the pretzel is on fire, the whole world is on fire, AND EVERYTHING IS FINE, I SWEAR. I never read any of Amy’s previous works, but if Roanoke is a debut into the thriller genre, I am more than excited to see what else she has up her sleeve.
Other thrillers I loved and worship:
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
My rating: 4 stars
It’s called “Dark Places” and lives up to its name. It’s dark, violent, gripping and, yes, even sick. There were some points in the book that had my stomach churning, and I had to put it down, take deep breaths and count to ten. This isn’t just about Satan worshipping, sacrifices or drugs and sex, but also rape, paedophilia, and abuse. It’s pretty much all the nasties you can find in the world, rolled onto paper.
Do not read this if you can’t handle the themes. It’s dark and disturbing, and you won’t find an inch of happiness in this book. Nothing about it is good: Libby’s afflictions are disturbing, Ben’s (her brother) side of the story is even MORE disturbing. From a scale of 0 to Fucked Up, Dark Places is “Way Fucked Up”.
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level. On top of all that, he can’t quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing him to his breaking point.
Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school. She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla’s bad-girl rep proves to be too huge a shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister’s circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.
My rating: 4 stars
From my Goodreads review: This book. Once upon a time, Kelly Braffet blew me away with her book Josie and Jack. It had left me tied up in knots and book-hungover for days. Braffet has a way of screwing with your head in the subtlest ways possible. Although some people compare her to Gillian Flynn, the latter author is more direct in screwing with your head. Braffet, on the other hand, does it subtly. Things you think don’t matter will play a huge role in the outcome of the story; characters you want to tear apart are characters you will cry for in the end.
Broken Harbour by Tana French
In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder Squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.
Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .
My rating: 5 stars
I read Broken Harbour last year, and remember sitting throughout the novel with my heart thundering my palms too sweaty to hold onto this hefty hardcover for long. Like most Tana French novels, Broken Harbour was a read-in-one-sitting book, and a restless night ensued because I could not stop thinking about it. Although most French novels have an element of thriller to them, Broken Harbour is the one I think of the most when asked which thrillers I enjoy. Not only does it deal with mental illness (Scorcher’s sister is mentally ill, although I can’t recall what illness exactly), it also talks about the darkest deceptions of humanity, and how far people will go to keep what they love.
City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
I haven’t read City of Saints & Thieves, but I ordered my copy immediately upon reading the blurb and some trust friend reviews on Goodreads, and I am incredibly excited to read it. Especially since it strikes me as another book to read in one sitting and then rave about on Twitter.
Have you read any of the books above? What about The Roanoke Girls? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of The Roanoke Girls to read.