‘How to Die Famous’ – Benjamin Dean

How to Die Famous is a book that examines the dark underbelly of Hollywood, showing just how seriously people in power take the desire to come out on top.

A gripping page-turner that I can see being made into a movie before long. It ticks every box, and I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review it before publication.

Abel Miller is the new face in an upcoming blockbuster. As a Brit joining a celebrated American teen show he could be forgiven for being nervous, but Abel has more reason than most to fear discovery. As an undercover journalist, Abel is trying to track down exactly what happened to his brother years earlier. Of course we’re desperate to find out what happened, and whether Abel will evade discovery.

From the moment we’re introduced to the cast of characters at the heart of the show, it’s clear that there’s a lot riding on this. We have the history of the show’s cursed predecessor and there’s clearly a story to be learnt. What we quickly see is that there’s more than one story to be uncovered, and there are no depths to which those who have most to lose will stoop to in order to stay on top.

A great cast of characters, a wonderfully exaggerated villain and sidekick, a number of secondary characters who offered something more than you might expect…and an absolutely audacious ending that hints we might see more of this cast.

Fantastic read, and I can’t wait to get this in the hands of some readers at school.

‘Clytemnestra’ – Costanza Casati

From her childhood in Sparta, Clytemnestra has known the need to follow her duty. In this richly imagined tale we follow Clytemnestra through her growing up, marriage and enforced life as queen to Agamemnon.

A young woman who knows her mind, and a queen who is happy to take her time in order to get vengeance. It’s hard not to admire the strength of this woman, and I was struck by the brutality of the life recounted.

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. From start to finish we are shown a complex character who is presented with unflinching honesty. We’re shown the various experiences she has, and while we might not always admire her decisions they show the development of the woman. She knows she will be infamous for the choices she makes, but we can at least understand her decisions.

‘One of Us is Back’ – Karen McManus

Rather unexpectedly perhaps – but if you’re onto a good thing then let it run – we return for our third visit to Bayview. Our murder crew has grown a little, but the repercussions of Simon’s game are still being felt. Nobody quite feels comfortable…and we soon see things are going to get a whole lot worse.

If you’ve followed the others in the series then this is a sure-fire hit. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s more appealing than its predecessors and fans of Karen McManus are going to be so excited when this releases in July 2023. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review it before publication, and I think – having just finished – I’ll have to get my hands on a physical copy (even though the paperback isn’t due until March 2024).

In One of Us is Back our story is mainly narrated by Phoebe, though we get views from all the characters and even get to see what was happening six years earlier with Simon and Jake. Bayview has always had its fair share of secrets but in this instalment we see just who is hiding what.

Things begin rather innocuously with a hacked billboard promising a new game. This puts people on edge but doesn’t seem too serious. However, as people start to go missing and the injuries become more serious, we soon realise that someone has returned to Bayview with their heart set on revenge. The book follows our crew as they try to work out who’s behind this, and why.

I genuinely did not see some of these revelations coming, and the story offering light on earlier events helped make sense of so many things. Perhaps it’s a little unlikely, bi it makes for a cracking read and there are definite signs that our trips to Bayview may not yet be over.

‘All the Sinners Bleed’ – S.A. Cosby

A compelling read, and one which doesn’t shy away from asking some awkward questions.

Crosby’s latest is a tightly-plotted, gripping thriller which forces us to consider the deeply rooted prejudices expressed within and how these might be dealt with moving forward. There’s no easy answers here, but this was a compelling read.

Titus is the first black sheriff of Charon. The book opens in dramatic fashion with him being called to the local high school where there’s rumours of a shooting. The shooter is black, and the only victim is a beloved teacher (who’s white).

With residents feeling from the incident, tensions are high. Some within Charon immediately start the process of using this event to manipulate and stoke anti-black sentiment in the area. Titus is determined to be beyond reproach, calling for an internal investigation.

What he uncovers sets up a truly chilling scenario.

The much-loved teacher was a monster hiding in plain sight. The killer, one of his victims. As tension runs high, Titus uncovers damning evidence of decades of abuse and shocking murders…all perpetrated by someone close.

As we follow Titus through the case we see the depths to which people are prepared to stoop. While the details are visceral, they do not feel unnecessary. If I were being picky I’d complain about the fact that Titus is the only really fleshed-out character within the book, but this works and keeps our attention on the case at hand.