I’m starting to think mysteries and thrillers are no longer really my thing. The few I’ve read, including the one below, haven’t really held my attention or really interested me much. I keep trying, but I’m slowly realizing mysteries are only enjoyable if they’re a cozy. Probably because the ones I pick up usually have food and/or a cat. On the bright side, my second review here only reinforces how much I adore fantasy and genre blending. The way magic and technology work in that world is just incredible. The whole trilogy is just breathtaking.
The Other Guest by Helen Cooper
Title: The Other Guest | Author: Helen Cooper | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons | Publication Date: July 26, 2022 | Genre: Mystery and Thriller
After a shocking death at a luxurious Italian resort, two very different women must question everything—and everyone—they love in order to untangle truth from lies in this twisty, captivating read.
One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.
Meanwhile, in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.
What follows is a propulsive cat-and mouse game set against the Italian lakeside as the two seemingly-unconnected women are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.
One Sentence Summary: In Italy, Leah secretly tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her niece’s death less than a year ago and, in Derby, Joanna ends up hosting a man she barely knows, but who seems to have been studying her.
I went into this hoping for a bookish trip to Italy, with a side of mystery, but it turned out to be less Italy and more a resort for incredibly beautiful people owned and operated by an increasingly broken and dysfunctional family. I was fascinated by the family, Charlotte and Gordon and their teenage daughter Olivia. Their polished exteriors hid some incredible secrets, all of which revolved around the death of the older daughter, Amy, which is what Amy’s aunt Leah is trying to unravel. They really stole the show for me, though the resort itself had most of my attention. Then there’s Joanna, who’s story felt more tangentially related than truly intertwined. I liked how some of the characters crossed between the stories told by Joanna and Leah, but I had a hard time getting into Joanna’s story.
The Other Guest is told by three women: Leah, Joanna, and the deceased Amy. It was great to get the whole story, but it really doesn’t start to come together until well after the halfway mark, making the story feel more broken up and almost disjointed with all the POV switching. It was fun, though, to start to see how the secondary characters operated across the three POVs and to get a glimmer of what actually happened nearly a year before. But I felt more disappointed by the ending than anything else. It felt less like a mystery and more just a slow unraveling of secrets as the family running the resort began to break down more and more. Actually, their slow unraveling was what kept me riveted. I was not a big fan of Joanna’s story as most of it felt more like it was following the story of a paranoid young woman with too big of a heart. I loved being in Italy with Leah, so Joanna’s POV just kept kicking me out of the story. It was also disappointing that the individual orchestrating everything was little more than a shadowy figure, contributing to my feeling that this was less a story and more an observation of a family tired of constantly keeping it together.
What I did love was the resort. It was beautiful, but so strange. The inner workings felt a little like a maze, and the pressure was just incredible. Early on there are signs of cracking, so it was absolutely riveting to just watch all these well-constructed things fall apart. I could sense Leah’s desperation to figure out what was going on with her sister and her family, but I didn’t get too much of a sense of anything else about Leah. I found the story from her eyes to be fascinating, but Joanna, even though I was not a fan of her story, was probably my favorite and most well-developed character.
The Other Guest wasn’t the riveting read I had hoped for, nor did I feel it really transported me to Italy. The characters’ secrets and watching them unravel was my favorite part, but I didn’t feel Leah and Joanna’s stories really wove together as well as they could have. They just felt too disparate with too much distance between them, and only a thin thread connecting them.
Rating: 3 cups
Primeval Fire by C.T. Rwizi
Warning: This is the third book in the trilogy. Spoilers for the first two books likely lie straight ahead.
Title: Primeval Fire (Scarlet Odyssey #3) | Author: C.T. Rwizi | Publisher: 47North | Publication date: July 26, 2022 | Genre: Fantasy
In the final riveting installment of C. T. Rwizi’s Scarlet Odyssey series, Salo’s death leaves his friends reeling—and a magical world in turmoil.
Salo is dead—and the world he left behind is at war.
In the midst of their grief, Salo’s closest clan members begin to experience strange phenomena: visions visit one, while seizures plague another. The clan’s new mystic divines that an arcane signal from the far west is calling, so they set out toward the desert—and encounter a caravan of travelers following the same mysterious call.
Meanwhile, Salo’s loyal allies Ilapara and Tuk embark on a bold mission to raise Salo from the dead. And their sorcery works…or seems to. While the resurrected Salo ignores his friends’ warnings and forms dark alliances, Ilapara and Tuk struggle with their growing unease, even as they follow Salo westward on a quest in which the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
With magic spiraling into mayhem, is this the end of Salo’s saga—or an epic new beginning?
One Sentence Summary: The conclusion to this incredible African-inspired fantasy has our group of protagonists scrambling to prevent a darkness from breaking free into the world.
Primeval Fire is the last book in the Scarlet Odyssey trilogy and beautifully wraps up the story. The first half was a little slow and introduced a whole host of new characters, so I was concerned the ending would be rushed, and a rushed ending was the last thing this gorgeous trilogy deserved. Fortunately, I needn’t have feared. The second half read like a dream, working hard to conclude the story and wrap up the characters’ story lines. It was all heartbreakingly beautiful, and just reinforced how much I love the characters.
It’s all about the characters for me. The world is incredibly amazing and perfectly detailed, but the characters steal the show for me every time. After the heart stopping end to the second book, I was terrified of what I would find in the last book, and where on earth it could possibly go. But it was perfect, absolutely perfect. I felt that this third book belonged more to Ilapara than Salo, and I loved that it felt like most of the story was told by her. She’s amazing, teetering on the edges of the world of men and the world of women and just perfectly blending them to be perfectly her. I wished for Tuk’s perspective, but seeing him through Ilapara’s eyes was so much fun. Salo, well, he has this incredible story that broke my heart and put it back together. This book just reinforced how much I love him. He’s incredible, almost too good to be true, but I couldn’t imagine him being any other way, because his good heart has always been his downfall throughout the story. I also loved the new characters. I was apprehensive about them showing up, but, by the end, because this book is not small, I adored them and couldn’t imagine the end of the story without them. The characters really stole the show here. They were all perfectly imagined and executed, and I loved getting to know them better. There is also a really sweet romance that had been hinted at throughout the whole series, but it really came out strong here. It was a little off putting at first, as it felt like it came out of nowhere, but, by the end, it just made me melt.
The world deserves some attention. It perfectly blends magic and technology. Ilapara and Tuk get the opportunity to travel beyond the Redlands (Africa) and enter a strange new land (to Ilapara) that really came off strongly as steampunk. I’m not a big fan of steampunk, but this book just perfectly couched it so it felt like steampunk as well as its own thing. The careful balance of magic and technology and how they all worked together has amazed me throughout the series, and Primeval Fire just proved what a feat it is. I loved this world, loved how everything blended so well. It’s an exceptionally well-executed balancing act.
There’s more I’d love to say about Primeval Fire, but, as the third book in the series, and especially after how the second book ended, saying too much would be too revealing. Suffice to say I loved just about everything. The beginning was a little slow and the back and forth in time was a little disorienting, but it all really does come together by the end. The end is note perfect. Primeval Fire is a beautiful conclusion to the trilogy, neatly wrapping up all the story lines and offering new things, people, and places to explore in an incredibly manageable way.
Rating: 5 cups
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for review copies. All of the opinions expressed are my own.
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