STAFF PICK: The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

Title: The Lost Night
Author: Andrea Bartz
Narrator: Kristen Sieh

Sometimes, a book can really sum up a particular time in history, or a feeling. When I had just finished university, two books really spoke to me. One was Generation X, by Douglas Coupland, and the other was The Graduate by Charles Webb. Both of these novels summed up the feeling of having been given opportunities, but not living up to them, and not knowing where to go next in life.

If you lived in Brooklyn in the late 2000s, then The Lost Night may very well be your “Zeitgeist” novel. Set in a time of mass unemployment and economic uncertainty, this dark “whodunnit” is a unique murder mystery, since you’re very much enveloped in the dark world that the characters inhabit, in addition to being wrapped in the mystery itself.

In 2009, Edie is a graduate with the world at her feet – or so it seems. From the outside, she has a supportive family, friend group, and is incredibly talented and bright. But one fateful night, she’s found dead – an apparent suicide, leaving her friends and family devastated. This brings the drug-fueled party lifestyle that her friends are living to an abrupt halt. Lindsay (the main narrator, and Edie’s best friend) is so anguished that she decides to disappear, from both Brooklyn and her friends, for a decade.

Fast forward ten years, and Lindsay’s life has changed dramatically from the hedonistic party lifestyle she once had. After a meet up with Sarah, another friend of Edie’s, Lindsay starts to suspect Edie’s death was not a suicide. After she discovers a disturbing video from the night in question, she becomes convinced that there was foul play. This is further backed up by the fact that Lindsay is unsure of where SHE was on that night, due to random blackouts. So she begins to investigate, which ruffles feathers, disrupts and breaks relationships, and ultimately, leads Lindsay to confront her own violent past.

The story is told mostly from the perspective of Lindsay, who is not a very reliable narrator, since we know that she cannot remember what happened. A few of the chapters are also narrated by other friends in the group, which adds perspective, but also confusion. This multiple-narrators format really lends itself to audio and reinforces the notion that Lindsay’s story alone isn’t enough to solve the mystery. Kristen Seih‘s narration (who narrates the Lindsay sections) really adds to the darkness and suspense of the story.

The end of the book has a great twist. Of course, I’m not going to ruin it for you, but because of the different perspectives that you hear the story from, you go from character to character, wondering if they are the murderer, or if it was ever a murder at all….

I would recommend this listen to anyone who was in their twenties in the early 2000s, and anyone who is a fan of Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn.

Publisher Summary
“Tightly paced and skillfully plotted, The Lost Night is a remarkable debut.”—Jessica Knoll, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Girl Alive

What really happened the night Edie died? Years later, her best friend Lindsay will learn how unprepared she is for the truth.

In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating New York like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.

A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light.

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STAFF PICK: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Title: The Hunting Party
Author: Lucy Foley
Narrators: Moira Quirk, Imogen Church, Elle Newlands, Morag Sims, Gary Furlong

When I was 12, my mum and I used to go to the library every week, and I would get four Agatha Christie novels, read them all in a couple of days, return them, and then pick out another four the following week. This was my first introduction to the mystery genre, and it lead me into becoming a big fan of everything mystery, thriller, and suspense.

I was intrigued by this book, because the premise seemed very like And Then There Were None, but apart from the idea of a group of people going to a remote house in the country, this psychological suspense thriller is quite different.

A group of old college friends spend every New Year’s Eve together. Now in their thirties, they have grown apart but still continue to plan this event (even though you get the feeling that for many of them, it’s not something that they want to be a part of). This year, they have chosen to stay in a secluded Scottish hunting lodge, which is the perfect place for them to unwind and reconnect with each other…in theory.

They arrive on December 30th, but within a day, a blizzard has trapped them inside the lodge, and by New Year’s Day, one of them is found murdered. But who did it? One of the other guests? A lodge staff member? Or one of the friends themselves?

Lucy Foley does an amazing job of creating characters who, on one hand, are sympathetic enough for you to identify with, but on the other, have enough secrets and faults to make you dislike them, and think that they might be the murderer. The chapters are narrated by a series of narrators, so you can’t be entirely sure that the accounts you are listening to are at all accurate. Not only do you not find out who the murderer is till the very end, you also aren’t entirely sure of the victim until part way through, which is quite an interesting twist on the “whodunnit?” theme.

In an almost Breakfast Club way, each character is quite different, and at points, somewhat stereotypically so. Miranda is beautiful, but troubled. Katie is seen as quiet and plain, but is hiding a secret. Emma seems like the perfect girlfriend and friend, but is she? Emma’s boyfriend, Mark, seems calm, but has a wicked temper, and Miranda’s husband Julien is certainly hiding something, but what is it? And what about the staff at the lodge? Heather, Doug and Iain? Who would choose to live in the middle of nowhere, unless they had something to hide or were running away from something?

The multi-narrator format of this book really lends itself to the audiobook format. It feels like a group of people are narrating an account of what really happened – which makes it even more spooky.

I truly loved this book. I went through the whole thing in one day, and didn’t want to stop listening. If you’re a fan of Ruth Ware or Gillian Flynn, this is definitely the listen for you. So far my favorite listen of the year!

Publisher Summary:

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

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STAFF PICK: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendriks and Sarah Pekkanen

Title: An Anonymous Girl
Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Narrator: Julia Whelan and Barrie Kreinik

After getting pulled into the deep end of The Wife Between Us fan base, I was ecstatic to hear that Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen were coming out with a new thriller, An Anonymous Girl (and devastated that I had to wait an entire year before I could listen to it). I always get anxious with anticipation whenever an author I love (or in this case, authors) comes out with a new audiobook. Will it live up to my expectations after being blown away by their first work? In the case of thrillers, will it follow a similar climax be too predictable? Of course, the very best suspense audiobooks are the ones we think we have figured out before being knocked off our feet and high horses.

When Jessica, a struggling makeup artist signs up for a psychology study conducted by Dr. Shields, she thinks she’s in for answering a few questions and collecting an easy check. But the questions are uncomfortably intense, and Dr. Shields is more interested in Jessica than she ever could’ve imagined.

The more Dr. Shields is inserted into Jessica’s life, the more paranoid she grows — but so does the money she’s being offered. A wicked game of cat and mouse is played throughout the book, which had me hooked right from the beginning. I was so pleased that Julia Whelan performed, as she did a fabulous job narrating The Wife Between Us. She speaks fluidly in a low, tantalizingly suspenseful tone. Having her paired with Barrie Kreinik made me extra glad I listened to the audio version of this book.

Each time I thought I had things figured out, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen threw me for a loop. Just as their last one did, this book kept me up into the wee hours of the night so I could finally get to the end. I was sad when I did, but one can hope that this powerful duo will return with another delicious thriller.

An Anonymous Girl.

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STAFF PICK: The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Bus on Thursday
Author: Shirley Barrett
Narrator: Katherine Littrell

The tagline of The Bus on Thursday, “Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist,” didn’t just grab my attention — it had me hitting download the moment it was available. Balancing snappy comedic diaries with one of my all-time favorite horror movies was something I needed to get in my headphones immediately.

That, and I was also curious to see if it was actually doable.

I was really pleased that The Bus on Thursday was able to combine the fast paced, comedic timing and humility I was looking for and the dark, demonic mystery that has me dying for cooler weather, sweaters, and all things Halloween. In this hilariously evil audiobook from author and screenwriter Shirley Barrett, we meet Eleanor Mellett, a primary school teacher whose life is turned upside down after a bad breakup and a breast cancer diagnosis in her early 30s.

Eleanor finds herself out of work and being sliced, diced, and reconstructed, all while trying to figure out her love life and what comes next. Once she receives a clean bill of health, Eleanor knows she needs a fresh start — one that doesn’t involve her old job, ex, and best frenemy. That’s when she finds Talbingo, a small town in immediate need of a new teacher.

At first glance, Talbingo seems perfect. Nestled near the mountains with learning-hungry kids and friendly neighbors is exactly what Eleanor had in mind. But things aren’t exactly what they seem in this quaint Australian town. The last teacher has been declared missing, and the kids aren’t the biggest fans of their new teacher. There’s also a local priest who is convinced that Eleanor’s cancer isn’t a medical issue, but a demonic one.

Through witty blog posts, Eleanor invites us into her life and the craziness that is Talbingo. Day by day, readers learn about the overly attached teen that is getting too close in class, the handsome neighbor who may know more about the previous teacher’s absence than he lets on, the petite woman from church who is crying over her decoupage, and the rest of Talbingo’s more interesting residents.

The Bus on Thursday is a clever, fast-paced listen that kept me guessing with each minute. Is Eleanor possessed by a demon? Or is she just losing her mind due to the isolation of Talbingo? Is her new paramour the devil? Or is he just not looking for a commitment? Either way, Eleanor is hilarious and going through this journey with her kept me laughing and spooked at the same time — just in time for Halloween.

Eleanor’s blog is brought to life with fiery sass by the amazing Katherine Littrell. Her inflection, attitude, and heart really added to the story in a way that made me feel like Eleanor was a friend pouring her heart out to me rather than being just a character in the book. Even as she’s breaking down, she kept me laughing and I dreaded having to hit pause.

The Bus on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Chilling Summer Listens

If the air conditioner doesn’t give you goosebumps this summer, these thrillers will.

 

1. A Blood Thing by James Hankins, narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon

A Blood Thing.

Governor Andrew Kane, is at a public meet-and-greet when a stranger slips him a phone and whispers, “Keep this… you’re going to need it after the arrest.” Hours later, Andrew’s brother is framed for murder, and discovers there is only one way to free him: answer the phone and agree to a blackmailer’s demands. He complies, but the stranger isn’t done. He has another little condition. Then another. And another…
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2. Unwelcome Guests by Anna Willett, narrated by Cat Gould

Unwelcome Guests

A weekend getaway in an isolated country house is just what Caitlin needs to fix her relationship with husband Eli. Her spirits are up as they enter the retreat and cool off in the nearby lake. But her husband is cold and dismissive so Caitlin decides to drown her sorrows, and heads into the wine cellar. What she finds there will change their lives forever.
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3. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding, narrated by Kirby HeyborneCassandra CampbellRebekkah Ross

Her Pretty Face

Frances Metcalfe thought her troubled son getting accepted into an elite school would change their lives. But after an incident that ostracizes the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever. Until she meets Kate Randolph. Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. As they bond, a secret erupts. One of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunik. And she’s a murderer.
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4. The Cabin At The End Of The World by Paul Tremblay, narrated by Amy Landon

The Cabin At The End Of The World.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet lake. As Wen catches bugs, a stranger appears. Leonard is the large, young, and friendly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and says, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault.” Three more strangers arrive, beginning a gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival.
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5. Half Moon Bay by Alice Laplante, narrated by Gabra Zackman

Half Moon Bay

Jane loses everything when her teenage daughter is killed in an accident. Devastated, she makes one tiny stab at a new life: she moves to the tiny seaside town of Half Moon Bay. She is able to cobble together some version of a job, friends, and peace. And then, children begin to disappear. As the disappearances continue, her neighbors wonder is if it is Jane herself who has unleashed the horror of loss.
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6. The Fifth To Die by J.D. Barker, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Graham Winton

The Fifth To Die

Detective Porter has been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath frozen waters, she is identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. 
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7. Last Girl by J. G. Hetherton, narrated by Laura Jennings

Last Girl Gone

Fired from the Boston Globe, Laura Chambers takes a job with the local paper. The work is boring – at least until a missing girl turns up dead. Years earlier, child after child disappeared, a reign of terror the town desperately wants to forget. Now that terror has returned to seize another girl. And another. And another. She dives deeper into a case, only to discover the truth may be far closer to home than she could have imagined.
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STAFF PICK: Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: Her Pretty Face
Author: Robyn Harding
Narrator: Kirby HeyborneCassandra CampbellRebekkah Ross

Frances Metcalfe has a secret; a secret that could tear apart her home, her family, and the one real friendship she has managed to forge. But in Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face, Frances isn’t the only one holding on to a dark secret that lies in waiting just below the surface of her life.

Between her distant husband, her difficult son, and the gossiping mothers at her son’s school, Frances finds solace in Kate Randolph. Kate is everything Frances is not – confident, beautiful, successful, and happy. It’s with her that Frances finds motivation to come out of her shell and move past the pain that haunts her. Unfortunately for Frances, Kate isn’t everything she seems. Darkness looms in Frances’s new friend, one that might be worse than anything Frances herself has to hide away from the world.

Told from three perspectives, Frances herself, Kate’s rebellious teenage daughter Daisy, and DJ, a young man with a haunting past of his own, Her Pretty Face is a perfect pick for fans of domestic dramas and thrillers alike.  Each perspective is read by its own narrator, with Kirby Heyborne (Gone Girl), Cassandra Campbell (Small Great Things), and Rebekkah Ross (All The Missing Girlsall giving amazing performances. They bring Frances, Daisy, and DJ to life with the passion and desperation that each character radiates.

Full of twists and turns, Her Pretty Face was an audiobook I just couldn’t press pause on. Each chapter brought the characters deeper down their own dizzying rabbit holes, which twisted together as the story progressed. Fans of true crime will love this one too, with its subtle influences from famous crimes that were interesting to pick up on. Her Pretty Face is the perfect listen for those long summer nights.

Her Pretty Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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