Published by Berkley (15th March 2022)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actual rating of 3.75
In 1977 Claire Lake, Oregon was shaken to the core by two nonsensical murders that were dubbed the “Lady Killer” murders. Two men, seemingly unconnected, were murdered with the same gun and both had a strange note left at the scene of the crime. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect, twenty three, living alone and seen to be incredibly cold. Someone was also seen leaving one of the scenes who looked suspiciously like her. However, she was acquitted of the crimes, and they were left unsolved.
Present day – 2017 – in Oregon, Shae in a medical receptionist by day, and runs a cold case true crime blog by night titled The Book of Cold Cases, a passion that came about after the attempted abduction of her when she was a child. After a chance encounter with Beth Greer, Shae pursues her and asks for an interview, surprised when the answer is yes. The two meet at Beth’s mansion, and each time Shae can’t shake the fact that she feels incredibly uncomfortable in the home. As uncomfortable as she feels, her need for the truth on the Lady Killer case is stronger. As the two grow closer, Shae begins to suspect that something isn’t right, and that there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to the Greer mansion.
This was the St. James book that I was hoping to read first, however, I found this one surprisingly hard to get my hands on. I’d seen it all over bookstagram and that’s how I learned of Simone St. James. So when this one was out of my reach, I ended up picking up The Sun Down Motel instead, which I read first. I thoroughly enjoyed that one and I do believe that if I had have read this one first, their ratings would have been reversed. One thing that I noticed about St. James in the two books that I’ve read is that she has the ability to completely change the tone of her writing to suit the story, which is fantastic. I’m sure everyone has noticed that some writers, their tone never changes and you would always be able to tell that it’s them writing the book, with St. James, these books could have been written by two totally different people, in my opinion at least. I guess what I’m trying to get at is, these stories are totally different from each other, even though they share the same spooky vibe. St. James has also demonstrated that she is quite adept at the dual time line story telling, which I LOVE.
The story itself was very well written and thought out. St. James does a fantastic job of really setting the creepy, dark and oppressive atmosphere that this book has. I felt like the Greer Mansion was a character all of it’s own, that was looming just behind my shoulder through the whole book. The way the two timelines work together is brilliant and I really felt like the mystery and cold case of the book was well executed. I felt like I had worked things out early enough, but I feel like that was because St. James wanted me to work out what was really going on, in both timelines that is.
The characters were so well written and I enjoyed all of them. Beth, the quiet, cold and calculating ‘socialite’ who is anything but. Shae the damaged female lead who is just trying to survive in the world she’s slowly created for herself after her abduction as a child. The detective who worked Beth’s case in 1977 who had strong feelings and theories but could never prove them at the time. The private detective that Shae hires to help her with her stories, they know each other so well, but have never met. And the Greer Mansion, standing proud and dark over the entire cast, taking up space and making it feel like it’s hard to breathe even when it’s not, causing shivers to roll down your back, even though you can’t pinpoint why exactly. The cast was fantastic and I enjoyed every single character that we met in this story. I loved the growth that Shae went through, and I loved the relationship dynamics between Shae and virtually everyone around her. There is a tiny hint of a budding romance in this story, same as with The Sun Down Motel, it’s there just to add an extra dimension to certain characters and to really allow relationships evolve in a completely organic way that I feel really added just a tiny pinch of something to the story, I also feel like it really gave Shae’s character more of a chance at growth too which was fantastic.
Initially I didn’t know how I felt about the book. I even felt a little bit disappointed because I had such high hopes and it wasn’t hitting me from the first page, but as I said above, had I read this one first, it probably would have been my favourite out of the two St. James books that I have read and the ratings and thoughts and feelings would be reversed. Unfortunately, I’ll never know whether that is true or not, as I can’t unread a book. What I will say is, this story is a slow development and really takes it’s time setting the scene, letting you get to know the characters as the story slowly unfolds before your eyes. In the end, this was still a fantastic story and so well written. St. James is an author that I will be following closely as I can’t wait to see what she does next.
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