“The Block Party” by Jamie Day 

Genre: Domestic SuspenseThe Block Party
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date: July 18, 2023


In “The Block Party,” the dysfunctional residents of a posh neighborhood take center stage. When a murder occurs at their annual party, we rewind with flashbacks to the previous year and discover the secrets each neighbor is harboring that could make them suspects. What we get is a community thriller that is a “Big Little Lies” wannabe. Just as in Liane Moriarty’s novel, the reader gets a heavy dose of lies, infidelity, violence, and a murder mystery. This tale is not as well written as Moriarty’s. However, this may be because the narrative is often in a teenager’s voice, which reads too juvenile for me, probably because I don’t usually care for YA. Still, I found the ending clever, which is when the author finally won over. Though not for me, this sort of escapism novel is a good beach read.

I received this novel at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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“Deep Water” by Patricia Highsmith

Genre:  Psychological ThrillerDeep Water
Publisher: Harper
Pub. Date: May 28, 2012

A marital thriller where all the fears and darkness are based mostly inside a couple’s home. They have that in-your-face warfare that can happen between a husband and wife. Think of the film, “War of the Roses.” I’ve been searching for an intelligent psychological thriller similar to “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith. Had trouble finding one.  I thought, “Why not try another Highsmith novel.” “Deep Waters” did not disappoint.  If you haven’t read the “Ripley” books or seen the movie, Tom Ripley is an anti-hero, career criminal, a con artist, and serial killer. Vic Van Allen, this book’s anti-hero, shares quite a few of Tom’s characteristics. Vic appears to be more of a tragic figure than Tom. Vic is written as a quiet, seemingly complacent husband with the rather odd hobby of snail breeding.  It’s not that the snail breeding feels creepy, it’s his strange obsessesive love of the creatures that gave me the willies. I wonder if the author was giving us an early clue on the man’s sanity.

Set in a sleepy, affluent suburb, “Waters” unfolds with a drumbeat of quiet dread. The premise is that Vic and Melinda Van Allen are in a loveless marriage held together by a precarious arrangement to avoid divorce. He doesn’t want to been seen as a failure “It isn’t appropriate for a man to divorce his wife” he says. And, she likes the money that comes with their union.  They agree that Melinda is allowed to take any number of lovers as long as she does not desert her husband and their daughter—A recipe for murder.

Once again, the author writes in detail of subtle, “Vic didn’t dance, but not for the reasons that most men who don’t dance give to themselves. He didn’t dance simply because his wife liked to dance.”  Then not-so-subtle dialogue. Later on in the tale, Vic says, “I do not waste my time punching people in the nose. If I really don’t like somebody, I kill him.” When Vic’s patience evaporates, bad things start happening to Melinda’s lovers.Through the author’s gifts, it is not the murderer or the murder that the reader is afraid of finding. Rather it is the apprehension of murder that permeates every page and keeps you anxiously turning them.

 Recently, I have read so many suspense thrillers that begin with something like, “To everyone around them, the husband and wife appear to be a perfect wealthy and attractive couple.  Then a murder happens to show them not to be such a perfect couple.” “Deep Water” is the only one of them that didn’t turn corny and stayed believable, not to mention, a damn good case study of a psychotic mind. Think of the real-life, likable Ted Bundy when thinking of Highsmith’s sociopathic characters. The deliciously twisted mind games that take place between Vic and Melinda are reason enough to read this thriller. Much better than most novels that end with a not-so-surprising big twist.

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