Hi friends! I’m excited to share my thoughts on a mystery-thriller, because I have been OBSESSED with them recently! A huge thank you to the publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
TW/CW: Mention of suicide, depression, panic attacks, murder, physical and verbal abuse, PTSD
Inside the walls of Indiana’s elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont’s students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don’t let your candle go out–unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .
One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house–to kill themselves.
Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn’t ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win–or to survive. . . .
I didn’t realize at first, but this is actually the second novel in a series! Luckily, they can be read as standalone novels so I didn’t whine in confusion the entire time. It was actually hilarious for me to read this, because my YA-reading brain was all “oh, they’re all in their early twenties!” That…was very wrong. Rory is 40 and Lane is 50, so clearly I need to read more adult books so I’m not shocked when the main characters are over 25.
I adored Lane and Rory as characters*! Lane is a former FBI profiler, and he’s both clever and thoughtful. I also loved Rory so, so much. She’s a brilliant forensic reconstructionist who’s also on the autism spectrum! Her skills are enhanced by that fact, and not inhibited. That was a fact I really appreciated. It was really interesting to me, seeing how she dealt with the stress of her life by restoring antique dolls. I would love to see OwnVoices autistic readers share their thoughts on this representation.
*minus my ignorance of their ages for roughly 90% of the book
We also get many other different perspectives, however. We get to read from the killer’s journals, and a little from his point of view. There’s a journalist obsessed with the Westmont Prep killings named Ryder Harris, and a podcast host named Mack Carter. There were a few other chapters from multiple people, but I personally found it easy to follow.
Another aspect that was brilliantly done are the flashbacks. We get to see the students and teachers in the summer of 2019, in the events leading up to the murders. There are flashbacks to the killer’s past. Finally, we’re seeing the case unfold in present time. I was actually kept guessing until nearly the end!
While I appreciated getting to see the case unfold from different perspectives, there were almost too many. I couldn’t feel totally invested in most of them. It quickly became annoying, because I would become comfortable with one aspect of the case, and then BAM* we’d instantly slip into another time, another character, and another plot point.
*someone should hire me to write comic books. i’d be good at the pows and whams and bams tbh
My other complaint is that while I was interested, I never felt fully grabbed by the case itself. I like to be SHOOK. I like to be on the edge of my seat, breathless, gripped by a sort of insatiable hunger to discover what’s next. And sadly, I never quite felt that with most of this book, except for the ending.
Do you have a favorite mystery series???