Elyse Discher

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Elly Griffiths’ third Harbinder Kaur mystery finds the detective inspector eager to prove herself after relocating from West Sussex to London. Her latest case begins when a reunion at the posh Manor Park School in Chelsea results in politician Garfield Rice’s murder. 

Griffiths alternates between Harbinder’s perspective and that of Cassie Fitzgerald, a former student at Manor Park who was a member of “The Group,” a clique of popular students. When they meet for their 21st class reunion, there is a fair amount of tension. Some of the friends have moved abroad, others have found fame in writing and popular music and some have gone into politics. Cassie is the odd duck: She became a police officer and now works under Harbinder.

This makes Cassie’s dark secret even more shocking: She committed a murder at age 18, and she can’t help but wonder if Garfield’s death is related. Harbinder, of course, doesn’t know that one of her subordinates is a killer, but readers can count on her to methodically unbury the past and untangle the crimes of the present.

The small, intimate collection of suspects makes this mystery perfect for fans of Agatha Christie: Rather than a wide-ranging hunt for a killer, Bleeding Heart Yard feels cozy and local. However, the book is also filled with unreliable narrators, as members of The Group struggle to determine which of their memories are real since they may have been tainted by time or trauma or lost to time all together. Old diaries offer clues, but many of the characters have the same amount of questions as Harbinder herself.

While this book is accessible for newcomers to the series, established fans will be especially pleased with how Harbinder grows as a character and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. Harbinder is a lesbian, and in previous installments, her sexuality was a source of tension, especially when it came to her conservative family. But living in a larger urban environment allows her far more freedom, and she is able to explore a liberated life on her own terms.

Solid plotting, an intrepid sleuth and a group of well-developed suspects make this whodunit a must-read.

Detective Inspector Harbinder Kaur has to investigate one of her subordinates in Elly Griffiths’ must-read blend of thriller and police procedural.
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Inspired by true events, The Half Life of Valery K takes readers to 1963 Soviet Russia, where a secret project threatens nuclear disaster.

Scientist Valery Kolkhanov has spent years in a Siberian gulag focused only on his own day-to-day survival. When he is summoned for a special assignment, he assumes it will be his execution, but instead he finds himself in the strange community of City 40. The top-secret city is surrounded by a forest ravaged by radiation, and Valery’s former mentor wants him to assist her in studying the long-term effects of radiation on the environment.

Elated to be free of the gulag, Valery embraces his assignment at first, but eventually he begins to suspect he’s not being told the truth about City 40. The radiation appears to be much more severe than it’s said to be, and Valery believes the residents of the city and potentially the entire Soviet Union are in danger.

Valery’s every move is monitored by KGB agent Konstantin Shenkov, an enigmatic man who becomes an unlikely ally. As Valery uncovers more secrets surrounding City 40, he and Shenkov find themselves drawn together in a forbidden attraction.

Natasha Pulley reveals the secret Soviet towns that inspired ‘The Half Life of Valery K.’

Natasha Pulley expertly reveals the mysteries of City 40 piece by piece, along with the secrets Valery himself is keeping. Valery knows his feelings for Shenkov would get him thrown back in the gulag if discovered, and the two men play a dangerous game hiding both their relationship and their investigation from the authorities. Valery is also something of an unreliable narrator, often questioning his own sanity as the events around him become more bizarre. Readers will be forced to question whether his insights into City 40 are accurate or the result of a mind plagued by nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Based on the Kyshtym nuclear disaster of 1957, The Half Life of Valery K is a compelling window into a terrifying and lesser-known aspect of the Cold War. With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, this novel is a superb work of historical fiction as well as an excellent mystery.

With unexpected twists, a paranoid atmosphere and a fascinating narrator, The Half Life of Valery K is a superb work of historical fiction and an excellent mystery.
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Megan Miranda knows how to land a twist, and her latest thriller demonstrates that to dizzying effect. Set in an isolated and hazardous pocket of the Appalachian Mountains, The Last to Vanish elegantly builds a near-gothic atmosphere as it tells the story of an inn with a troubled past and the locals who are keeping deadly secrets.

Abigail Lovett loves her quiet job at the Passage Inn in Cutter’s Pass, North Carolina. The inn butts up against the Appalachian Trail, catering to guests looking to lose themselves in nature. Unfortunately, Cutter’s Pass has a dark history of people becoming lost for good. Decades ago, a group of college students, dubbed the Fraternity Four, vanished while on a hike. Over the years, two women also disappeared. Most recently, a journalist named Landon West set out to write about the strange history of Cutter’s Pass only to disappear himself. Now Landon’s brother, Trey, has arrived at the Passage Inn to try and find clues to his brother’s whereabouts. Most of the town’s residents attribute the mysterious goings-on to accidents on the trail, but Landon’s disappearance unsettled Abby, and now she’s starting to wonder if they are all connected.

A pervasive sense of unease runs throughout The Last to Vanish, whether Abby is facing the dangers of the mountains or the sneaking suspicion that the locals are monitoring her every move. The Passage Inn is a character in itself with quirks, secrets and dark basement rooms. Facing all these strange happenings at what used to be her comforting, calm place of work further spooks Abby: The phones keep going down, and one of her co-workers quits with only a brief note explaining her departure.

As the novel progresses, Miranda slowly gives readers more information about Abby, which only leads to more questions: Where did she come from before she, rather suddenly, arrived in Cutter’s Pass, and why did she decide to live and work at the inn in the first place? She’s not quite an unreliable narrator but rather one whose personal details are revealed with careful precision by Miranda, who ensures that Abby is fascinating, not frustrating. 

A perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller, The Last to Vanish‘s expert plotting and surprising twists will delight readers.

Megan Miranda's latest is a perfectly balanced cross between a cold-case mystery and a psychological thriller that features a fascinating amateur sleuth.
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The Drowning Sea is an atmospheric procedural starring a detective at a crossroads in her life.

Retired Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is spending the summer in West Cork, Ireland, with her Irish boyfriend, his son and her teenage daughter. They vacation in the picturesque village of Ross Head, but the idyllic trip is cut short when human remains wash up on the shore near their cottage. The body is that of Polish immigrant Lukas Adamik, whose disappearance months earlier led many in Ross Head to assume that he had returned to Poland. But when the police determine that the body was only recently deceased and rule out an accident or suicide, the mystery of where Lukas has been—and what happened to him—consumes the small community.

In addition to that, Maggie’s hostess, Lissa Crawford, asks her to look into the disappearance of her childhood governess, Dorothea. The Crawfords were once the owners of the local manor, Rosscliffe House, which Lissa sold after her family was beset by unfortunate circumstances. Chief among them was her father’s tragic suicide on the cliffs, after which Dorothea vanished. As Maggie investigates what happened to Dorothea, she realizes her case may be linked to the murder of Lukas.

The previous two Maggie d’Arcy mysteries have been set in both Ireland and Long Island, but The Drowning Sea completely immerses readers in Ross Head. Author Sarah Stewart Taylor creates a rich and slightly gothic atmosphere, with the ocean beating against the treacherous, wind-swept cliffs as Rosscliffe House looms over it all. Despite this subtle shift in tone, The Drowning Sea continues the series’ exploration of the inner life of its main character: Maggie becomes increasingly obsessed with the case, her dogged detective work serving as a distraction from the reasons for her retirement and the question of whether to uproot her and her daughter’s lives by permanently moving to Ireland.

The Drowning Sea‘s gorgeous backdrop and stalwart sleuth will satisfy and impress mystery readers, particularly fans of traditional whodunits.

The Drowning Sea's gorgeous setting and stalwart sleuth will satisfy and impress mystery readers, particularly fans of traditional whodunits.
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If you’re a Jane Austen fan, chances are you’ve always wanted to see your favorite couples from her various novels interact with one another. (Indeed, reams of fan fiction have been written on this very topic.) But what if you could do that and watch them deal with a murderer in their midst? In Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham, the titular cad is killed during a house party at George and Emma Knightley’s estate. It’s up to Catherine and Henry Tilney’s daughter, Juliet, and Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s son, Jonathan, to catch the culprit. We talked to Gray about revisiting Austen’s most beloved characters in their married lives and why George Wickham was her first and only choice for her novel’s victim. 

What is your favorite Jane Austen novel?
Pride and Prejudice: the answer everyone gives, probably, and for very good reasons. Name another novel written more than 200 years ago that still gets read regularly, by nonacademics, purely for pleasure. I don’t think there is one, at least not in the English language. That said, I truly love all her novels, and the one that perhaps intrigues me the most is Mansfield Park. The one that moves me the most is Persuasion. And I have to stop now, because you didn’t ask for a treatise about my feelings regarding all six novels. 

“I imagined the book I wanted to read, which then became the book I wanted to write.”

What made you want to write a mystery set in Austen’s world?
It was reading Death Comes to Pemberley and . . . not digging it. I love P.D. James, so my anticipation for the book was sky-high. It comes out, I get it, and I discover that the murder victim in that book is (SPOILER ALERT) Denny, a minor character in Pride and Prejudice. My first thought was: Who cares who killed Denny? None of the beloved characters were suspects, as I had assumed they would be. So I had this big crash of disappointment that had less to do with the quality of James’ writing (which is, of course, superb) and more to do with my assumptions. I imagined the book I wanted to read, which then became the book I wanted to write. 

How did you create and then navigate the conflicts between the members of each couple?
For the most part, the conflicts the couples face call upon issues they dealt with before they married, but in new ways. Darcy and Elizabeth are burdened with grief, but that grief is worsened by Darcy’s refusal to reveal his emotions. Emma’s been chastised by Knightley for her meddling, so how does she react when he feels obliged to intervene in someone else’s life? Colonel Brandon and Marianne have yet to work out how much his past will determine their future, and so on. They’re all the same people they were during courtship, and though they’re older and wiser, they can still fall prey to subtler versions of their previous mistakes. 

“The most fun to write [was] Elizabeth Darcy, of course . . .”

How did you stay true to Austen’s voice?
I’m tremendously flattered that the voice rang true to you. I didn’t mimic period style exactly, but I tried to let that be the guide as much as possible—which involved a ton of rereading Austen’s work, some reading of other Regency-era novels, reading some of the Austen family letters and watching my favorite adaptations. 

Which character was the most fun to write? Were there any who were surprisingly challenging?
The most fun to write were Elizabeth Darcy, of course, and Marianne, as well as the new characters of Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney. Most challenging was Fanny from Mansfield Park: Her personality is naturally timid, her moods fragile, her responses often passive. She is the antithesis of what we look for in a main character in modern fiction, and yet Fanny is capable of great courage when she knows herself to be right. So making her both true to her depiction in Mansfield Park and engaging to readers today was definitely a challenge. 

What made you decide to make neurodivergence a part of Jonathan Darcy’s character?
Honestly, that emerged from the writing process itself. At first, my only goal was for Jonathan to be more Darcy than Darcy. But as I dug into the story, I had to ask what might be driving that. Once I recognized that Jonathan might be neurodivergent, it opened up so many interesting questions about how he would navigate the Regency world. I did a lot of reading and research in the hopes that he would feel authentic on the page. 

One point that was important for me to remember, though, was that neither Jonathan nor his parents—nor anyone else in the novel—will ever think of him as neurodivergent. That’s not a frame of reference any of them would have; that’s not how he would be understood in that era. 

Read our review of ‘The Murder of Mr. Wickham’ by Claudia Gray.

What led you to decide on Mr. Wickham being the murder victim? Were there other contenders?
Wickham was the first and only candidate I considered. The victim had to be someone whom many, many people would have a motive to kill, and who incites quite as much fury as Mr. Wickham? 

Will we see Juliet and Jonathan again in future books?
I’m so glad you enjoyed them! It can be difficult to set new characters among known ones, but Juliet and Jonathan proved a delight to write. Rest assured, they’ll team up again.

 

Photo of Claudia Gray by Stephanie Knapp.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a good dinner party must be in want of a murder. In this case, it's The Murder of Mr. Wickham, the dastardly villain of Pride and Prejudice, which was bound to happen, according to author Claudia Gray.
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Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a cozy locked-room mystery set in a world populated by Jane Austen’s beloved characters.

Emma and George Knightley have decided to host a monthlong house party at their estate, Donwell Abbey, and have invited some of their closest friends: the Darcys (including their son, Jonathan), the Brandons, the Wentworths, the Bertrams and Juliet Tilney, the daughter of Northanger Abbey’s Catherine and Henry. During the first days of the party, the very-much-not-invited George Wickham makes an appearance to collect a debt from Mr. Knightley, and we quickly learn that every person in attendance has a grievance with Wickham. Austen fans will already know from Pride and Prejudice that the Darcys’ interactions with Wickham were the opposite of pleasant, and he is still up to his nefarious ways in Gray’s novel: An investment scheme has robbed some couples of their wealth, he is blackmailing Fanny Bertram, and Colonel Brandon has a particularly heartbreaking past with the scoundrel.

When Wickham is found dead one stormy night, it is apparent that someone staying or working at Donwell must have committed the crime, as the muddy roads were too impassable for a stranger to arrive. After witnessing the local magistrate’s bumbling efforts, Juliet and Jonathan form an unlikely partnership, as both are determined to solve the crime.

Claudia Gray reveals why Mr. Wickham had it coming.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham is not a novel for Austen purists. The reader must accept the conceit that the characters are all acquainted (in a foreward, the author explains how she tweaked the timeline) and, furthermore, that one of the beloved characters may be a murderer. On the way to reaching the mystery’s satisfying solution,, readers also get to see that all the couples still have struggles within their marriages. Those who believe Austen’s novels ended with a firm happily ever after may be dismayed by this development, while others will be fascinated by how Gray complicates the relationships between the various characters.

Readers looking for a charming mystery will adore this book. Gray captures Austen’s tone perfectly, allowing fans to step back into the Regency author’s beloved world. And despite the presence of iconic characters such as Emma Knightley and Lizzie Darcy, the newly invented characters of Jonathan and Juliet are dynamic in their own right. They quickly become adept at working together, and there is a hint that romance is on the horizon.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham will allow many Austen fans an opportunity to revisit the characters they treasure, and solve a mystery to boot.

Claudia Gray’s The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a cozy and charming mystery set in a world populated by Jane Austen’s beloved characters.
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The Cage is a psychological thriller that’s tailor-made to be read in one breathless session. It’s so fast-paced and wide in scope that it feels almost cinematic.

After working late on a Sunday night, Human Resources Director Lucy Barton-Jones and recently hired attorney Shay Lambert get in the elevator to leave the headquarters of fashion empire CDMI. The power goes out, trapping them both. After a frantic 911 call, the power returns and Lucy is dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to Shay, Lucy had a panic attack while stranded in the elevator and killed herself. But her story doesn’t quite add up to the police, especially when they dig into Shay’s past and discover that her resume is full of omissions and lies. The story certainly doesn’t work for Ingram Barrett, CDMI’s senior vice president and general counsel, given the bad press it will bring the company. He hired Shay only months before, and he’s willing to sacrifice her rather than risk the police looking too closely at Lucy’s recent activities.

As the novel alternates between the events of the past and the present investigation, we learn how Shay came to be in the elevator that night. Shay is an unreliable narrator, and through her actions, rather than her words, it becomes apparent that her circumstances—financial, romantic and legal—are very different from what she projects. The way author Bonnie Kistler (a former attorney) portrays the contrast between what Shay tells the people around her and what the reader actually sees happening is captivating. You can never fully believe Shay, and as the mystery of Lucy’s death gains more momentum, readers are forced to rely on clues in the background to understand what happened.

Lucy’s death isn’t the only mystery here: What were Lucy and Ingram involved with that makes him so eager for the police to arrest Shay for murder? Who is Shay really, and what’s her endgame? Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, The Cage weaves these separate plot lines together so seamlessly that readers will be genuinely shocked by the finale. This thriller is the perfect book for readers who value mind games over violence but still want an explosive ending.

Part locked-room mystery, part legal thriller, Bonnie Kistler's The Cage is tailor-made to be read in one breathless session.
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Joanna Schaffhausen’s fifth book in her Ellery Hathaway series, Last Seen Alive, focuses on the horror of its central sleuth’s past. As a child, Ellery survived being kidnapped by the notorious serial killer Francis Coben—she was the only person to ever do so. Decades later, she’s changed her name and found purpose as a police officer, but she has never escaped the nightmares about her time as Coben’s captive. Now on death row, Coben makes an offer to reveal the location of the remains of his other victims, but only to Ellery and only in an on-camera interview. She initially refuses, disgusted with Coben’s desire to manipulate her even behind bars. But when a woman is found killed in Coben’s style, Ellery realizes that he is working with someone on the outside and that their meeting will affect more than just cold cases.

This gritty police procedural doesn’t flinch at violence, but spends as much if not more time exploring its effects and how they are compounded by sensationalist media. Ellery knows she must agree to the interview but struggles to reconcile this fact with the approach of the Nancy Grace-esque broadcaster, who is desperate to conduct it. While the special purports to celebrate Ellery’s survival, the coverage focuses on the torture she endured, to the point of zooming in on Ellery’s physical scars. 

Schaffhausen keeps the reader firmly in Ellery’s perspective as she follows Coben’s twisted clues, making the tension nearly unbearable. Fans of darker mysteries that don’t shy away from the gory details will enjoy this well-crafted and thoughtful whodunit.

Like Ellery, Micah Wilkes is looking to leave the past behind in Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola. When Micah was in high school, her boyfriend, Alex Swift, killed her best friend, Emily Winters. Alex has spent 10 years in prison, and Micah has spent that time trying to escape being known solely as the ex-girlfriend of a murderer, a footnote in true crime history.

Alex was convicted on largely circumstantial evidence, and now a podcast is revisiting the case. Soon internet commenters are questioning her stoicism during the trial and wondering if she had something to do with the crime. When she receives threatening texts and someone breaks into her apartment, Micah starts to wonder if the media attention on Alex’s case has driven someone to harass her or if Emily’s real killer is still out there. She begins her own investigation, even as those closest to her criticize her need to unbury the past, making her feel attacked by both those she loves and those she’s never met. 

Buccola dives into the anxious, painful workings of Micah’s mind as she pieces together the bits of her past that she’s locked away. Readers will find themselves doubting reality along with Micah as she questions the narrative she’s always believed about her friend’s death. While not scary, Catch Her When She Falls is wildly suspenseful and almost gothic in tone, making it the perfect book for a reader looking for thrills without any gritty or gory aspects.

Both Last Seen Alive and Catch Her When She Falls show incredible empathy for the mental and emotional toll the media takes on not only victims of a crime, but also their friends and family. It’s a humanizing view of women’s trauma that’s not always found in a genre practically built upon their pain.

These two mysteries thoughtfully examine how the media commodifies female trauma, resulting in whodunits that are equal parts thrilling and empathetic.
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Set amid the glitz and glimmer of showbiz, these historical mysteries expose the corruption and abuse that exists after the shine of spotlights go out. But even more than that, they examine critical periods during which women’s roles were shifting as they demanded more freedoms.

As a teenager, Willowjean “Will” Parker literally ran away to join the circus. Stephen Spotswood’s Murder Under Her Skin (the sequel to 2020’s Fortune Favors the Dead) finds her as an adult in 1946 New York City, working at a detective agency with her mentor, the brilliant Lillian Pentecost. Fresh off an arson investigation, Will gets a telegram that her friend Ruby Donner, the tattooed lady of Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus, has been murdered and that another performer, Valentin Kalishenko, has been arrested for the crime. Will believes Valentin is innocent, and she and her boss set off for small-town Virginia to meet up with the circus and clear Valentin’s name.

Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus allowed Will to escape her abusive father and safely explore her sexuality as a lesbian. Now that she’s returning as an outsider, some of that closeness is gone and, in a melancholy but emotionally realistic twist, Will finds herself trapped between two worlds: She’s no longer completely trusted by her former peers, and she’s still working to gain the approval of her intrepid boss. 

As they work the case, Will and Lillian find the world in flux around them, which Spotswood ably explores without distracting from the central mystery. In the wake of World War II, U.S. veterans are dealing with displacement and PTSD, women are being shunted into more restrictive roles now that GIs have returned, and movie theaters are filling up while circus arenas are emptying. None of the characters in this mystery quite know how to cope with these seismic cultural changes, setting Murder Under Her Skin apart from more simplistic stories set in the same time period. Despite the cultural angst swirling around them, Will and Lillian focus on finding justice for Ruby, a woman many of their contemporaries don’t consider respectable or worthy of their compassion.

Elly Griffiths jumps ahead a few decades (and across the pond) in her snappy new Brighton mystery, The Midnight Hour. It’s 1965, and when theatre impresario Bert Billingham is murdered with rat poison, his wife, actress Verity Malone, is a natural suspect. Worried that the police will look no further than her, Verity hires PIs Emma Holmes and Sam Collins to clear her name. Among their suspects is magician-turned-actor Max Mephisto, who is filming a remake of Dracula along with Billingham’s son and is rumored to have had a fling with Verity.

Much like Murder Under Her Skin, this mystery focuses on a tightknit group of performers. Many of the actors, directors and costume designers in Billingham’s orbit worked together during the war, and everyone seems to have a story illustrating Billingham’s nastiness, giving Emma and Sam no shortage of suspects. 

As they navigate the complex showbiz web around Billingham and his family, Emma and Sam team up with 20-year-old rookie police constable Meg Connolly, which allows Griffiths to explore the experiences of three women at very different stages in life. The growing feminist movement has created more opportunities for women like Meg, but her male-dominated workplace still treats female sleuths as novelties. While Meg is just starting out, Emma struggles to balance her career with being a wife and mother, and she is frustrated that her detective work is treated like a hobby rather than a profession. Sam, meanwhile, worries that her own romantic interest in Max Mephisto could be clouding her judgment.

The sixth book in a series, The Midnight Hour is also full of secondary characters who have appeared in previous Brighton mysteries, so readers may want to start at the beginning before taking a stab at this one. But those who are already fans of the Brighton mysteries will be well satisfied with this installment, which tracks the evolution of Emma and Sam’s characters and careers without sacrificing one bit of Griffiths’ wit and charm.

Beyond being tantalizing whodunits, both Murder Under Her Skin and The Midnight Hour feature dynamic, complicated female characters who unapologetically stand up to and outshine their male contemporaries.

Set amid the glitz and glimmer of showbiz, these historical mysteries examine two critical periods during which women demanded more freedoms.
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Rachel Kapelke-Dale tackles everything from abortion to sexual abuse in The Ballerinas, an unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet.

The daughter of a famous ballerina, Delphine studied ballet intensively for most of her life at the famous Paris Opera Ballet. Along with her friends Lindsay and Margaux, she was poised to become a star—until she suddenly left France for Russia and gave up performing in favor of choreography. 

Now Delphine is 36 and has returned to Paris to stage a ballet of her own creation with Lindsay as its star. Delphine feels she and Margaux wronged Lindsay somehow, and flashbacks to their teenage years reveal how these three young women were stretched to the breaking point by a demand for perfection from their teachers, peers and, in Delphine’s case, her mother.

Kapelke-Dale, who studied ballet herself, grants readers rare insight into a grueling world that, despite being largely female, is still dominated by men. Male teachers, choreographers and dancers hold power over their female counterparts, and gendered violence is embedded in the culture. Ballet is portrayed as an institution that fails the women it supposedly celebrates. For example, Delphine is betrayed at one point by a fellow dancer in a particularly horrific way, and he is immediately protected by the institution. 

The patriarchal structure of ballet prizes youth and beauty, which affects Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux in new ways in their mid-30s. Lindsay is nearing an age at which she will have to retire from performing to make way for the teenagers coming onto the scene. Kapelke-Dale shows how these women’s bodies are breaking down due to years of demanding dance training, making the pressure to appear thin, glowing and youthful feel even more cruelly ironic.

Despite all of this, The Ballerinas is not a bleak novel. Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux begin to push back against the system that has oppressed them, coming to terms with their past and moving forward into a world in which they have agency over their bodies and careers. It is to Kapelke-Dale’s credit that this empowering ending feels earned, rather than naively optimistic.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale tackles everything from abortion to sexual abuse in The Ballerinas, an unflinching, unapologetically feminist glimpse into the world of professional ballet.
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Conflicting memories of the past converge like a fever dream in Flora Collins’ riveting debut thriller, Nanny Dearest.  

Though only in her mid-20s, Sue Keller is an orphan. Her mother died when she was a child, and after the loss of her father, Sue descends into a depressive funk.  She struggles to leave the house, relying on delivery and work from home options. On a rare outing she meets a woman named Annie, who recognizes Sue and claims to have been her childhood nanny—but Sue has no memory of her at all. Craving a connection to her lost parents, Sue continues to meet with Annie, desperate for stories about a period of her childhood her mind has mysteriously blacked out.

Toggling between Sue’s present and Annie’s past, Nanny Dearest explores how the need for family and connection can become toxic, even deadly. Annie longs to escape her abusive father, so a live-in nanny position with the Keller family seems like the perfect escape. Mr. Keller is a successful novelist, sequestered away as he works on his latest book, and Mrs. Keller is focused on a career of her own, as well as her position as a socialite. So Annie and young Sue are left largely to themselves, leading Annie to bond immediately with her young charge, to the extent that she will do anything to remain with the Kellers indefinitely.

Decades later, Sue can’t figure out why she has no memory of Annie. Her former nanny’s photographs and stories confirm she was Sue’s caregiver, but Sue obviously can’t ask her late parents why Annie left almost immediately after Mrs. Keller’s death or why her father never talked about Annie in the years after her mother’s death. When Annie’s grasp on Sue’s life begins to feel suffocating, Sue launches to research her past in a desperate search for answers.Collins, a lifelong New Yorker who based her story partially on her own experience with a childhood babysitter, leans on the intense psychological drama of the caregiver-child relationship to keep the reader turning pages, never depicting violence on the page. The perfect choice for those who want thrills without the gore, Nanny Dearest is as compelling as it is unnerving.

Conflicting memories of the past converge like a fever dream in Flora Collins’ riveting debut thriller, Nanny Dearest.

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