Book Review: Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell

Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell

Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Price: $10.99 paperback // $10.46 Amazon

Helloooo there, friends! I’m excited to be reviewing SPARE ROOM by Dreda Say Mitchell! Spare Room was an interesting read, and by the end, I definitely enjoyed it! The cover boasts that it is “a twisty dark psychological thriller” (as you can see in the photo above, with my sweet Nala!) which I’m inclined to agree with. Let’s delve in, shall we?

The book begins with an incredibly confusing prologue, which honestly was hard to follow. I do sometimes find the beginning of crime fiction novels to be a bit disorienting… I think some authors try to be TOO elusive or TOO thrilling, and occasionally, it comes across as just confusing. That being said, the payoff is definitely here with Spare Room… although the prologue follows a male through a seemingly difficult decision that he is deliberating, it’s only a few pages and then the real story begins.

Spare Room is told in the first person. Lisa, our protagonist, is looking for a spare room to stay in (hence the title!). Luckily, she finds a beautiful room in a Victorian home owned by couple Jack and Martha; Jack is many years Martha’s junior, which creates an interesting dynamic in landlords.

The plot really picks up when Lisa finds a suicide note in her room that is clearly written by the previous tenant. On her first visit, Jack tells her that there have been no previous tenants, and Lisa is the first tenant they’re renting out to. Here is the crux of our story: Lisa is simultaneously battling her own mental health concerns while she is investigating this spare room and also revisiting her past. These issues come to a head about two-thirds through the book.

Spare Room has a quick-moving plot and Lisa is likable enough. That being said, I think the most interesting characters are ones we don’t see as much of: Lisa’s neighbor, Patsy, and Jack and Martha are all more interesting and dynamic than Lisa, but unfortunately, they are definitely just supporting characters. They do indeed help move the “twisty” plot ahead, though, so they serve specific purposes in the novel.

Spare Room is definitely a psychological thriller, and at 268 pages, it’s a quick read. I recommend it if you’re looking for something to speed through that has twists and turns and keeps you flipping the pages! If you read it, let me know in a comment! Enjoy 🙂

Book Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: Berkley Books

Price: $26.00 hardcover // $18.02 Amazon

My oh my, MY LOVELY WIFE by Samantha Downing is such a good book to start this blog with! My Lovely Wife is what I–and I’m sure others–would classify as a domestic thriller. I picked this up because of the inside book jacket’s synopsis: “Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…” The synopsis essentially details a husband and wife who are happy but then got bored (which, alright, sure). Downing writes, “We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive. Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.” WHAT!

“We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive. Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.”

My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing

Although I was hooked here, many a synopses have hooked me just as quickly as they have dropped me. However, My Lovely Wife was fabulously told in the first person of one half of the book’s duo, the husband. He’s a nameless protagonist (though he does go by a few aliases as part of the murder plot), and he’s married to his wife Millicent. The couple has two kids, Rory and Jenna, who are likable enough throughout the 371 pages, but really become an integral part of the plot toward the end of the book.

Essentially, the story follows husband and wife as they foray into the next chapter of their marriage: plotting and committing murder. If nothing else, My Lovely Wife is a deliciously dark novel that you will not be able to put down. I’ve only read a few “domestic thrillers,” but this is up there as one of my favorite page-turners. In fact, I immediately requested (demanded) my boyfriend read it after I finished it, because the ending of the book had me agape. Literally. I was S H O C K E D at how things go down, and I just wanted someone else to read it so I could talk about it! Downing created a perfect twist that I both didn’t see coming but also totally believed.

My Lovely Wife is not too gruesome while detailing murder, and is the perfect book if you’re more interested in beautifully crafted, highly sinister, truly captivating characters with complex relationships. I cannot wait to see what Downing comes out with next, because My Lovely Wife was perfectly twisted and smartly crafted.

Welcome to the Coffee and Crime blog!

Hi! My name is Tessla. I’m a twenty-something teacher who is a voracious reader. You know those people who bring books with them… everywhere? I’m one of those people. Waiting for an appointment, standing in line at the store, while traveling… you name it, I’ve done it.

An embarrassing photo of me, circa 2001, maybe? after falling asleep reading Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. To this day, I’ve never finished it.

I’ve enjoyed reading for as long as I can remember. As a child, I read in and out of school. In middle school, I distinctly remember feeling very competitive with my classmates… I always wanted to learn more, and I figured out that I could learn more by simply reading. When I got to high school, my reading habits ebbed and flowed depending on my English teacher (my favorite English teacher gifted me a copy of My Friend Leonard by James Frey since I loved A Million Little Pieces, and her class got me into memoirs. Important to note that I know the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces, but still–I couldn’t put either down. It’s safe to say that that is a formative moment in why I became an English teacher.)

Regardless, I’ve always had a deep-rooted appreciation for reading. It’s corny, but I tell my students this same thing when they ask how I could possibly like reading: books put the reader into a world that is not his or her own. Despite frustrations, hardships, or chaos in my “real” life, reading has always allowed me to escape for a little while in a way that watching TV or movies and listening to podcasts or music just simply cannot. Reading is an active task that does not let you (easily) “phone it in.” I cannot fathom a world in which I am not surrounded by books.

Nala, resting on my book. She rules the house, basically.

Now, between a hectic life as a high school English teacher and a devoted cat mom, I read regularly. In fact, reading fell to the back-burner for a while when I was in college (specifically earning my M.A. in education), so reading has really returned to the forefront for me in the past year and a half. Right now, I’m just a few books shy of already beating my 2018 record (and it’s only August!). I tend to finish a couple books a week, but during my busiest weeks in school, I may only finish one book over the course of a week or two.

This blog is titled COFFEE AND CRIME because those are two things I love and deeply appreciate. That being said, there may be a smattering of young adult, memoirs, or science fiction books occasionally. All summer I have been on a crime fiction binge, and I suspect that will stay true for a while. I’m drawn to crime fiction, a genre I’m using to encompass a lot of things–suspense, thriller, psychological, domestic, mystery–for a lot of reasons. Primarily, though, I love being surprised and ‘in the dark’ about classic or modern “whodunnits.” I also love when an author can pull one over on me and create a plausible, but unexpected, twist. I’m that person that audibly GASPS when books get good. How can you not love a good ol’ fashioned page turner?!

I think that’s enough about me for now 🙂 My first few posts will be some of the books I’ve read recently that I loved, and then I’ll sprinkle in current reads. Thanks for visiting my blog, and enjoy!

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