⚠️ TW: Suicide, sexual assault, self-harm, misogyny ⚠️
My third book by Ashley Winstead and I have so many thoughts. A page-turner for sure. An engrossing psychological thriller that deals with many timely and often taboo topics. While not completely my cup of tea, I was still drawn into this very dark suspense novel.
Shay Deroy is living a comfortable if unfulfilled life in Texas when she hears of the death of her college best friend Laurel on a true crime podcast hosted by her old friend Jamie.
Soon Shay and Jamie travel to Upstate New York trying to uncover for themselves what really happened to Laurel. Shay tells Jamie of their college experiences many years before with their friend Rachel and her father Don.
Their relationships took a dark turn but Shay tries to explain to Jamie how as a young woman, she fell under the thrall of the handsome and sophisticated Don. It isn’t a pretty picture and here the author explores themes of self-esteem, beauty and misogyny.
”And then he said, in the same breath, ‘Tell me the truth: how often do people tell you you’re beautiful?’”
This was one of my most anticipated thrillers and it did not disappoint. Ashley Winstead is an incredibly versatile writer – I absolutely loved ‘In My Hands I Hold a Knife’ and ‘Fool Me Once’! This one takes a much darker and disturbing turn, so heed the trigger warnings. There are many parallels to the notorious real-life NXIVM cult, all told within the framework of a true-crime podcast. If you like your thrillers on the darker side, then you will devour this story.
(Thank you to the publisher Sourcebooks for providing a review copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.)
About the Book:
From the author of the acclaimed In My Dreams I Hold a Knife comes a pitch-black thriller about a woman determined to destroy a powerful cult and avenge the deaths of the women taken in by it, no matter the cost.
While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay’s built a new life in a tiny Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel’s death—delivered, of all ways, by her favorite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever.
Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers. As she follows the threads of her friend’s life, she’s pulled into a dark, seductive world, where wealth and privilege shield brutal philosophies that feel all too familiar. When Shay’s obsession with uncovering the truth becomes so consuming she can no longer separate her desire for justice from darker desires newly reawakened, she must confront the depths of her own complicity and conditioning. But in a world built for men to rule it—both inside the cult and outside of it—is justice even possible, and if so, how far will Shay go to get it?