Rainy Day's Books, Video Games and Other Writings


murder mystery books

Book Review: Rivers of London (Rivers of London #1)

Rivers of London Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Whenever I first started reading this book, I was really excited. The premise of the book sounded right up my ally, like a story I could sink my teeth into. However, while I overall enjoyed this book, it wasn’t the read I was hoping for.

What I enjoyed about Rivers of London was how the supernatural and fantastical were introduced into the story. I found the concept of vestiga interesting. The idea that you could pick up on imprints intrigued me. Especially with the way it was used by the protagonist to help solve crimes. I also liked the idea of the rivers in London were each a character within the story and the conflict between the two main rivers who were trying to gain even more control. I thought that was an interesting concept to read about.

I also enjoyed reading about the hierarchy regarding the police force in this book. Since I don’t live in London, I have no idea if it accurately represents the different branches of the police (if there are any), but I thought it was interesting to read Peter talk about these different police units. I also loved how Peter was able to use his skills as a constable and combined them with magic to stop the protagonist from hurting more people.

It was also interesting seeing how magic impacted people to where it could affect your brain if the person is using more magic than they can control. And I liked the effect magic had on technology in this world to where it could result in killing your phone battery or damaging your electronic devices so you couldn’t use them anymore. The idea of magic having that much of an affect and being that powerful really fascinated me.

While I enjoyed reading Rivers of London because a lot of the topics discussed truly fascinated me, I also had some issues with the story too. For starters, while I found a majority of the characters in this book interesting, Peter Grant wasn’t the protagonist I wanted for this story. When I originally started reading, I was fine with his character. I even was rooting for him to find out what was going on. But in comparison to the other characters in the story, such as his female counterpart Lesley and the Inspector he became partnered with Nightingale, he wasn’t as interesting a character. If I’m to be honest, I would’ve preferred Lesley as the main character because she was someone I could more relate to. I felt like Peter was trying to use logic to explain the existence of magic too much instead of just enjoying being a part of the police force that handled cases involving magic.

Another criticism I have with this book is the plot. It originally started off really fascinating with Peter talking to a witness that he later discovered was a ghost. However, as the book continued, I felt like the plot just started rushing forward. It went from a story where magic was being explained to one ridiculous event with magic after another. The plot essentially started out interesting to where I wanted to find out what happened next to then become absurd. I wouldn’t have minded so much if there was context with these events or if the main antagonist in the story faced his retribution. But while there is context explaining why these sequences of events happened in the order they did, the antagonist just vanishes at the end of the story. While I understand why (without saying anything that could spoil the book for those who’d be interested in reading it), a lot of the end felt very messy to me.

In the end, the plot just didn’t work for me. Yes, I still enjoyed what I was reading because the way magic was explained truly fascinated me and I loved solving crimes involving magic. But I feel like if the plot of the story near the end wasn’t so gummed up, I’d have enjoyed it more. I know there are more books in this series so I’m willing to give them a chance in the hopes that they’ll be an improvement over this one.

Book Review: In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1)

In the Woods Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

As a crime scene novel, this book perfectly depicted how investigators solve crimes. There was just enough mystery and suspense to keep me interested in finding out what Ryan and his partner Cassie discovered. The writing was the perfect tone, adding to the suspense when needed, and describing the setting of the world around Ryan in perfect detail. It made me engaged, wanting to know more about what happened. Also enjoyed that the setting took place in Ireland because I haven’t read too many novels that take place in other countries. So it’s always interesting reading books like this where the setting isn’t somewhere I’m familiar with.

I also enjoyed hearing more about Ryan’s past. While he’s definitely not my favorite detective in this book, I loved learning more about the trauma he went through and understanding how that shaped him into the character read about in the book. I also enjoyed his friendship with Cassie, my favorite character in the book. I found both of them together as partners to be very amusing when solving crimes because they had amazing chemistry.

But while I enjoyed these aspects of In the Woods, there were so many things with this novel too that left me criticizing it. For one, Ryan’s character wasn’t great. When I first started reading this book, I didn’t mind him all that much. But the more I read, the less I liked him. I think my disdain for him is because of the way he acts with Cassie and the way he talks about his past. After everything they’ve been through together and Ryan saying Cassie is his best friend, he lets their friendship go without a fight over the dumbest thing. He ruins his friendship with her instead of trying to talk things out like responsible adults are supposed to do. And she tries to set things right, but he wants nothing more to do with her until it’s too late. That really bothers me because she was his best friend, yet he doesn’t act like it after what happened. I also don’t like the way he talks about his past because he’s never let go of the one mystery surrounding his childhood, the one he has the opportunity of solving only to let it slip through his fingers. I get his memory of events is skewered, but when he’s given the chance to solve the crime that has literally changed his life, he doesn’t put his best effort into it. He starts remembering some of the events that came before, but doesn’t even push himself to figure out what happened.

I also don’t like how the main case in this story was solved. There were so many mistakes made during the investigation that it took a lot longer for them to solve the crime if they’d looked in certain places at the very beginning. I also didn’t like who they chose as the scapegoat for the crimes because the person who actually came up with the idea got away with it completely.

To be honest, I was completely disappointed by the end of the story. There was so much buildup that I was expecting things to end differently. But that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, things change for the worse and the mysterious crime that occurred during the narrator’s childhood is never solved, despite the flashbacks in the past he experienced.

So while I enjoyed reading In the Woods, there were a lot of things in the story that left me disappointed, wanting more than what was given. Nonetheless, I plan on reading the second book in this series The Likeness in hopes that it’ll be a better read.

Book Review: Hunting Shadows

Hunting Shadows Charles Todd Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

A dangerous case with ties leading back to the battlefields of World War I dredges up dark memories for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge in Hunting Shadows, a gripping and atmospheric historical mystery set in 1920s England, from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

A society wedding at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire becomes a crime scene when a man is murdered. After another body is found, the baffled local constabulary turns to Scotland Yard. Though the second crime had a witness, her description of the killer is so strange it’s unbelievable.

Despite his experience, Inspector Ian Rutledge has few answers of his own. The victims are so different that there is no rhyme or reason to their deaths. Nothing logically seems to connect them—except the killer. As the investigation widens, a clear suspect emerges. But for Rutledge, the facts still don’t add up, leaving him to question his own judgment.

In going over the details of the case, Rutledge is reminded of a dark episode he witnessed in the war. While the memory could lead him to the truth, it also raises a prickly dilemma. To stop a murderer, will the ethical detective choose to follow the letter—or the spirit—of the law?

When I first started reading this book, I was really excited because the premise sounded very promising. And for the first couple chapters, Hunting Shadows had me hooked. However, this book overall was a big disappointment for me.

Normally, I really enjoy reading books like this. I love murder mystery novels. I love these reads because they take a look into the justice system and how the law works. And while these books aren’t an accurate representation of what our system is like, they do paint an interesting picture and give the reader a better understanding of the process investigators have to go through in order to catch the bad guy. They move quickly, leaving no question unasked.

But this book just didn’t sit right with me. Having not read the first fifteen books in the series might have something to do with it. However, I think the pace of the novel was another problem I had with it. I just couldn’t get into reading this book because it was too slow. It started off climatic and then dropped the reader down to a slower pace. The reader briefly gets an insight into the killer’s head only to be dropped into the story where they don’t get to see the killer until the last few pages of the novel. And when the killer is introduced, the reader becomes disappointed because he isn’t what the reader expects.

Another problem I had with Hunting Shadows was the time period. I know the novel was supposed to take place in the 1920’s, but I really didn’t like the time period in this story or the setting overall. It was just okay. Didn’t add anything to make this book any more interesting for me and want to continue reading.

I also didn’t like the main character Rutledge. Not having read the rest of the books in this series might have something to do with it, but I also think part of it is because I just couldn’t connect to his character. For a Scotland Yard inspector, he wasn’t too bright. Some of his actions throughout the novel didn’t make sense to me. For example, the man he suspects to be the killer he takes him along with him while he continues his investigation into these murders only to discover that he actually isn’t the killer. And even after the guy is obviously in the clear, he still suspects him until he is able to find the murder weapon. Rutledge isn’t the inspector I was expecting to be the main character in Hunting Shadows and that really disappointed me and made it harder for me to continue reading this book.

However, there are some aspects of Hunting Shadows I did enjoy. The beginning of the story really got me interested in continuing to read this novel, despite how it all turned out. The reader gets to see into the killer’s head as he spots his first victim and sees how he reacts to seeing that character.

Another aspect of this book I enjoyed was how descriptive Todd is of the setting. While I didn’t enjoy the time period in this story, Todd definitely knows how to create atmosphere in a novel. The reader sees this throughout the book starting with when Rutledge gets lost to when Rutledge goes to find the murder weapon.

Even though I was overall disappointed in how Hunting Shadows turned out, I still give it three stars because Todd knows how to get the reader hooked at the beginning of a story and can create atmosphere that can mess with the reader’s emotions. This book was an okay read, but not one I’ll be reading again anytime soon.

Blog at

Up ↑