Cover Image: The Innocent Wife

The Innocent Wife

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Member Reviews

an okay thriller that ened up being a lot more predictable than I originally expected, however, the characters kept me engaged through it.
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Sam... awkward, lonely, and self conscious has a bad break-up with a boyfriend. Intrigued with death row inmate, Dennis Danson's story, she begins to write to him. He writes back to her swearing to his innocence. After 20 years of being wrongly locked up, he is exonerated! 
Can Sam and Dennis marry and begin living a normal life together...Or is there more to Dennis's past than he is telling Sam? As his past resurfaces and childhood friends begin coming around, Sam soon realizes that she might have been better off thinking things thru. But it's too late for that. Now she has to make decisions that will affect how the end of this story plays out! 
Amy Lloyd did a great job casting characters that were very memorable. After reading straight through half of it and going to bed, I found myself not being able to sleep. Thinking about Dennis, Sam, & Lindsay and what could possibly have happened all those years ago kept my mind racing! I had to read straight through the rest when I woke up! 
So... a fast paced, heart pounding, mind racing thriller that fans of suspense and crime should definitely read!
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Like I said, this story has a very interesting premise. I've heard numerous stories about people falling in love with prisoners on death row who have committed some horrendous crimes, and how they believe that the prisoner is innocent. I thought it would be interesting to see the author's take on this situation, especially since in this story, the prisoner is said to be wrongly convicted.

But the story left me disappointed.

Everything just felt rushed. The initial contact between Samantha and Dennis that led to them "falling in love" was extremely unbelievable. It was definitely a case of insta-love - even if it didn't happen instantaneously. There was no proper buildup; over the course of a few letters, they declared their feelings for each other and that was that.

The story showed some promise when Dennis was released and Samantha started having her doubts. It made me think that the story would finally redeem itself and be full of the tension I expect in a thriller.

And then it let me down again. The ending was rushed, and quite anticlimactic. It didn't really make much sense, and I felt like I had been taken on a long ride that didn't have any fun parts to it.

Overall, I thought the premise was interesting but the story's execution left a lot to be desired. I know a lot of people really liked this book and it has won some awards as well but I just couldn't love it. For those reasons, this book gets 2/5 stars from me.
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Summary from Goodreads:

"Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

When the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, however, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all. 

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?"

My Thoughts:

The Innocent Wife was a compelling read but one that I'm not completely sure how I feel about after finishing.  When I first heard about this book I just couldn't resist the sound of that premise.  I was instantly intrigued and wanted to read it.  Honestly I just fell into the pages of this one from the very beginning.  There is this feeling from the very beginning of uncertainty that really doesn't let up until the very last page.  It's hard to explain but that's the best way I can think to describe it.  For instance, there feels like there is something  slightly "off" with Samantha although I didn't know quite what it was.  Or if I was even right in feeling that way.  Then Samantha and Dennis's relationship begins and that too doesn't feel right.  The entire book was like that for me and it just add this layer of tension and atmosphere that I couldn't get enough of.  I read this book quite literally questioning every character's motivations and actions because I just couldn't trust any of them.  They actually all almost had a layer of ick to them if that even makes sense.  The only character I really liked was Carrie (a secondary character that was doing the documentary on Dennis).  So the author has build this crazy intense vibe where you almost expect anything to happen and then the ending hit.  Stop reading here if you don't want any spoilers (I'll keep them at a minimum but still).  I just could not get behind the ending of this book.  It felt rushed and unexplained in a way that didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story. And I don't honestly know if it was just me - maybe I was just so unprepared for the way it ended that it caused it not to work for me?  I don't know?  I haven't yet read any other reader's thoughts yet because I wanted to write up my thoughts first but I am very curious.  Don't get me wrong as it wrapped things up but just in a way that seemed so much less than the first 3/4ths of the book.  I really don't even know how to explain it other than that.  As always take my thoughts with a grain of salt because really otherwise I found this book to be a very good read.  

Overall, I enjoyed this one but didn't love it for the reasons I stated above.  I will certainly read more by this author and am actually really looking forward to whatever she comes up with next.  I just couldn't not mention the ending when I was still questioning and thinking about it two days later.  I feel like this is a book that would be really great to be discussed with other readers.  I'm looking forward to doing just that if I'm being honest so if you've read this book leave me a comment so we can discuss!  I was trying to decide how I would rate this book and I still think that I would give it four stars overall.  The ending threw me a bit but the rest of it was just so good!  I would recommend this book to readers of suspense and thrillers.

Bottom Line:  A compelling and suspenseful read that left me wanting a bit at the end.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Thoughts are my own.
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A bit of an odd journey - woman falls in love with imprisoned murderer, helps him get released and then lives in fear of him? This story was very all over the place and some odd twists and turns, but given this was a debut and published as part of a contest, I'd probably give future work from Lloyd a second chance!
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I don't have a ton to say about this book other than I finished it.  I hated the main character.  I wanted to shake some sense into her from the first chapter.  She never changed. The reveal was predictable and the epilogue was a major disappointment.

Will be posted to my blog 6/29/2018
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​​(I received an ARC from the EDELWEISS)
(Review Not on Blog)

The synopsis attracted me to this book and I read several reviews that made me eager to pick it up. The first bit of the book had me hooked. Even while you feel the need to roll your eyes at Samantha and her "loved, loyalty and devotion" for Dennis, you also can't help but see where it goes. Then I started to see where this book was going with all doubt building up. The suspense died out about 3/4s in but I was invested to finish the book. It's not a bad book, but it had a lot of potential.
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I was intrigued by the premise, but the book kind of fell apart for me at the end.  The more I get to think about it, the more I don't buy the backstory of the crime(s), so it's hard to buy the story at all.  I didn't care for most of the characters, which I think took away from the reading experience.  I just had a hard time identifying with any of them or actually caring what happened to them.
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This started off kind of slow, but it was intriguing.  I struggled to get through as I really was not engaged in the story at all.  The last bit of the book started to move at a faster pace and get interesting but then it ended abruptly and left me with way too many unanswered questions.
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This book was definitely an interesting read. The plot was great but the characters annoyed me. Sam was so naive and insecure while you had Dennis ho was this cocky maybe murderer. At times i did wonder would there be more mystery to this book and when it ended i was left a little upset. I needed more mystery and thrill but overall i did enjoy where this book took me and the ending was pretty gross yet awesome at the same time.

Thanks to NetGalley and everyone involved.
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The Innocent Wife approached a question I often ask. Why on earth do women fall for serial killers who are on death row? When the news came out that a woman wanted to marry Charles Manson, I was baffled. Knowing his history, why on earth would you fall in love with someone so evil?

Dennis Danson was tried and convicted for the brutal murders of several young girls 20 years ago. An ocean away, school teacher Samantha starts following his case. People are convinced he's innocent and will keep fighting to clear his name. Samantha gets caught up in the fight. After exchanging letters with him, Samantha leaves England behind.

Soon, Samantha finds herself marrying Dennis. His lawyers finally succeed in getting him exonerated. As Samantha gets to know this stranger she's married, she starts to wonder if they all have it wrong. Is Dennis a brutal serial killer who really is going to get away with murder?

There are romantic parts to this book, but most of it is a gripping suspense. As Samantha starts to learn about the man she married, she finds herself doubting her innocence. The quest to unravel the truth picks up and leaves you on the edge of your seat.

I don't want to give anything away. I started out thinking Samantha was very weak. Through the book, I wondered what I'd see from her as each chapter advanced. In the end, I was happy to see how everything turned out. It really is the last pages when you really get the full understanding if Dennis is guilty or innocent.
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I can definitely see why this book won the Daily Mail’s First Novel Competition. Intense, thrilling and labyrinthine in its twists and turns, it kept me hooked until the very last page.
At the moment, the ‘did-they-do-it-or-not’ murderer is having something of a moment. Making a Murderer, the documentary on Amanda Knox, and even the amazing podcast Serial are all doing this, tapping into our curiosity and drip-feeding us just enough information to keep us conflicted- and hooked. In The Innocent Wife, Amy Lloyd puts her own spin on it, and asks the most difficult question of all: what happens if the man you love may, in fact, be guilty of the crimes he’s accused of?
It’s excellent. We see things through the eyes of Sam (or Samantha), the lonely young woman who finds a kindred spirit in Dennis Danson, a man on Death Row for killing a young girl over a decade ago. Though falling for a criminal is a stretch for most people, Lloyd perfectly captures Sam’s sense of loneliness, isolation and need to be loved, which rapidly descends into paranoia and fear as her relationship with Dennis develops- and sometimes makes her dislikeable to the reader (at least, some of her decisions made me roll my eyes).
Dennis himself is an enigma at the centre of it all: like Sam, we’re unsure whether or not he did it until the very last page. And once they’re married, the questions begin to spiral, and other facets of his personality show themselves- he’s controlling, he’s cruel, and he might just be capable of murder. But he’s also charming, charismatic and capable of love. He’s a fascinating character, and as the tensions ramp up and more secrets come crawling out of the woodwork- about Dennis’s friends, his past and his family- it’s a testament to Lloyd’s writing ability that we’re kept guessing until the very last page.
The Innocent Wife is one of those stories that will get you thinking, long after you’ve turned the final page. Though at times it veers towards the predictable, the tension keeps you reading- and makes the book feel as claustrophobic as Sam does, trapped in a house in the middle of nowhere. The only place where I felt a little bit let down was the ending- after the scorching showdown comes a slightly anticlimactic- almost cliché- final chapter, that I felt jarred with the rest of the book.
Despite that, this is a startlingly confident, bold debut that delves deep into the murky, grey world of serial killers- and the strange glamour that surrounds them. Is there a right answer? Or do we just see what we want to? Amy Lloyd knows, but she isn’t telling.
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Samantha writes to Dennis in prison, which begins their strange relationship. Despite their many trust issues, she stands by her man. The plot was okay but the story was very slow moving.
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Dennis Danson is in prison for murder, until the publicity around a true crime documentary draws enough attention to eventually get him exonerated. Before his release, Samantha, an English girl who's obsessed with his case, begins writing him. They fall in love through letters, and when she finally saves up enough to visit, he proposes. Samantha wants nothing more than to be able to touch Dennis, but when he's released and that becomes a reality, she's not quite sure what to do with herself, or with Dennis. He's been locked up a long time--the man's got issues, to say the least. And that's the interesting part of the book, in a nutshell. After his release, Dennis is mean and hateful to Samantha. Samantha takes it. He's mean some more. Samantha blames herself. He's hateful some more. Samantha thinks she's fat and ugly and eats a giant cheeseburger and fries. He's mean some more. Samantha accuses him of messing around with his ex. He occasionally kisses her on the forehead, and that's enough for her, until it isn't, and she starts to think maybe he really IS a murderer. Sigh. Samantha is exhausting and Dennis is exhausting. There are a few moments of suspense, where you actually find yourself a bit worried for Samantha. However, there are a lot of great thrillers out there right now to spend your precious reading time on. This isn't one of them.
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In a Flutter: Twisted – yey!
Fluttering Thoughts:
Worldbuilding: The original crime scene was in Red River Country, Florida. Sam’s home is Bristol, and the prison is in Altoona – a few settings.
Characters: Sam is fascinated with Dennis, who’s convicted of rape&murder of a kid. She’s lonely, unhappy, and develops an obsession for him. It’s sad for many reasons; one of them is the fact that it seems kind of transparent to me that she’s setting herself up for a big disappointment. As her infatuation gets her the object of her desires, we slowly find out more about her past, her guilty conscience, her insecurities. It was very interesting to see her react to Dennis and what she found out, in the end.
Plot: The story is twisted and intriguing, super full of tension. I loved that twisty feeling!
Writing: Third person, past tense narrative, Sam’s POV. She was kind of a nutjob, I felt, but not the charismatic type. Her voice came across as weird and a bit creepy.
Curb Appeal: Cool cover, hooking blurb – impulsive buy material for my Thriller moods.

I recommend The Innocent Wife to fans of Mrital Thriller and twisted stories about serial killers.
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Friends, you know I try to be judicial in my reviews, fair and polite but honest. I always try to make sure that you understand why I personally found certain elements of a novel problematic because reading is such a personal experience. Yet, every once in a while, a novel comes around where to be fair or polite is a more difficult task than normal, and the time and energy I want to spend on reviewing such a novel means a lack of politeness on my part. Sometimes, a novel is so disappointing and so bad from a cultural perspective that it does not deserve fairness. Also, typically these types of novels require spoilers in order to prove a point, so consider this your warning, my friends. I hereby declare I may be sharing spoilers and therefore absolve myself of any hurt feelings or disappointed readers who hope to read the novel and do not want to know what happens in advance. Also, I threw fairness out the window upon finishing this train wreck of a novel.

To list just one area where The Innocent Wife goes wrong is like asking a bibliophile to name their favorite book of all time. There are so many areas where the novel fails as a story that it becomes an effort in futility to select just one. The story is predictable. The characters are insipid, flat, and thoroughly uninteresting. The premise is slightly appalling. What's worse, even though it has a "ripped from the headlines" aspect to it, the story is culturally blind. The whole thing proves to be one big disappointment, made even larger by the fact that you keep hoping it is going to get better. Spoiler alert - it does not.

The plot twists within the novel are not twists at all. Careful readers will identify certain plot twists well in advance. Normally, within good suspense stories, writers offset such easily anticipated twists by veering in an opposite, previously unsuspected direction with the story. Such is not the case with The Innocent Wife. Because it has the potential to be a great novel, you hope that Ms. Lloyd is going to take the story into a completely different direction at the plot twist point. Time and time again though, she fails to do so but instead continues to plod along a highly predictable and, frankly, boring path. Everything from Dennis' release to the problems in their marriage to the supposedly shocking ending unfolds exactly how you think it will. This makes for a highly inadequate suspense story.

As for the characters, they are not much better. Samantha is one step above a caricature, while Dennis remains one. The supporting cast is small but equally predictable and undeveloped. There is the quirky but lovable sidekick, if you will, who helps Samantha adjust to life in the United States, smooths the initial rough patches in their marriage, and provides a comforting shoulder when Dennis' release proves to be less romantic and more cringe-worthy than anticipated. That she is loud and proud and in a committed same-sex relationship feels like a tacky add-on to help make the story more culturally diverse. Then we have the high school ex-girlfriend who initially shows up on the periphery as a minor figure but ends up playing a much larger role in Dennis' life than anyone previously predicted - well, everyone except the reader, who can guess her involvement in his life within the first introduction. She is the poor, white trash ex-girlfriend to Samantha's supposedly more polished character. None of the characters are sympathetic, and there is not much done to try to get you to empathize with them. The whole thing stinks of a check-the-box exercise.

Then there is the plot itself. Putting aside the idea of a documentary helping a convicted prisoner prove his innocence (cough..."Making a Murderer"...cough), in this day and age it is unfathomable to me that someone would drop her entire life without notice to anyone, including her mother, to move to a different country and get married to a relative stranger. It does not matter how many letters they exchanged and what secrets they supposedly spilled in those letters, the idea is ridiculous bordering on insane. It would be one thing if Dennis were allowed conjugal visits so that they could at least get some private time together, but Dennis is not allowed them. Instead, we are expected to believe that Samantha and Dennis are deeply in love based solely on letters and conversations held through Plexi-glass. Now, I understand that prisoners get groupies, and that some people do fall in love and get married while one of the couple is in jail, except my understanding of those scenarios is that the relationship takes years to develop. These are not love-at-first-sight situations. Yet, Ms. Lloyd essentially makes Samantha and Dennis a love-at-first-sight couple. Their letter-exchanging occurs over a few weeks, let along months, and it is not even a year after the first letter before she literally walks out of her old life and onto U.S. soil for the first time ever. It is so ridiculous that it makes soap opera plots look realistic.

Finally, we get on to my biggest issue with the novel. Given the #metoo movement, greater awareness of body positivity and mental health, an increase in feminist leanings in novels, and a greater cultural awareness about men of color and the judicial system, The Innocent Wife is a slap in the face to all of that. Samantha is a damaged person. She hints at a violent situation with her ex-boyfriend and frequently refers to her inadequacies and jealousies that cause her to spiral out of control. She recognizes her behavior and attitude as damaging to herself and to others but does nothing about it. Moreover, she references her weight, her acne-laden face, and her general laziness all the time, especially in light of Dennis' health consciousness and general gorgeousness. This is no ugly duckling story; Samantha is set up to be Dennis' opposite in every way if only to make it easier for Dennis to manipulate her into doing what he wants. After all, a girl like her doesn't deserve a guy like him. The whole thing sets off every alarm in my body for why Samantha is not a good character. What makes it worse is that I believe Ms. Lloyd intends for Samantha to be relatable, to be an every girl who eventually ends up winning the game in the end. This would be fine if she were relatable and the game worth winning. She is not relatable, and this is not a game anyone wants to win.

Just when you think it can't get any worse, we get Dennis mocking the #blacklivesmatter movement and practically defending white privilege as he learns how to communicate on social media. It would be one thing if Ms. Lloyd through Samantha then took the time to explain what the #blacklivesmatter movement means and why it exists, but she doesn't. Instead, we get several pages of Samantha telling Dennis he can't say stuff like that and to let it go and then explaining to others how she tried to stop him but couldn't get him to see reason. We never get an history of the movement or reasons why Dennis should be more careful in online discussions. The Innocent Wife attempts to be culturally aware with its inclusion of Twitter and Instagram, with its mention of the #blacklivesmatter movement and discussions of white privilege. It even tries to be media savvy with a wink and a nod to the popular documentary "Making a Murderer" in its very plot. It fails on all accounts, and it fails rather spectacularly.

For all intents, The Innocent Wife should have been a good story. The basic structure for a compelling thriller exists. Undeveloped characters and a thorough lack of imagination when it comes to plot make it boring. The lack of cultural awareness even though it tries so hard to be culturally relevant makes it infuriating. If you want a story about marriage and the prison system, stick with An American Marriage. You will be much happier and will learn more than anything within the pages of The Innocent Wife.
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I think we have all heard the stories and people corresponding with inmates sort of like pen pals. According to reports, there are hundreds of women who correspond with death row inmates. Some end up establishing a relationship despite the restrictiveness of their engagement/contact. Serial Killers like Ted Bundy reportedly had a lot of fan mail from female groupies. This might sound a bit odd given the fact that he killed many women. However, he even got married while awaiting trial. I have always been curious about these relationships and this is what drew me to this book. I was curious about Sam and Denis.

The story begins with Denis behind bars serving time for murder. He is also suspected to be behind the disappearance of a number of women. Sam is a teacher who gets pulled into Denis’ story and soon starts corresponding with him. Readers get to see the romance blossoming. I liked the fact that the author shared the letters between the two. It sort of let us in to their world and it made their romance feel real and normal despite the circumstances.

The story is mainly narrated through Sam’s POV. We get to learn about her life after meeting Dennis and the way it changed especially once he was freed. I did sympathize with Sam at some point. Her longings, disappointments, happiness all came alive through the pages. However, I can’t say that I supported her decisions. The author did a fantastic job though in developing this character such that I might not have understood why she did most stuff but I did get why that stuff seemed normal to her.  I can’t say the same for Dennis though.

This was an entertaining read. As I have already mentioned, the relationship between the two was interesting to read about especially at the beginning of the story. My only issue with this story was that there were sections that dragged a bit. I found my interesting waning off at some point and then suddenly, there was a lot going on towards the end. However, despite the pacing being a bit up and down, I enjoyed reading this book and certainly liked the premise. I also liked the creepy vibe at the end of the narrative.
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The Innocent Wife is Amy Lloyd’s debut novel, and it’s an absolute cracker. If you’ve enjoyed the Netflix series Making A Murderer or Mindhunters, you’ll be absolutely riveted by this fictional tale of a lonely woman who begins writing to a man on Death Row she firmly believes to be innocent.

After watching a TV series about Dennis Danson, Samantha becomes just one of many convinced he was innocent of the horrible murder of a young girl of which he was convicted. There are too many gaps in the evidence, and she joins in an online campaign to get a retrial. Eventually she begins writing to Dennis, and falls in love with him through their correspondence. Taking a trip to the States to meet him, she is caught up in a new documentary being made, and eventually decides to marry him.

Dennis’ sudden release catches everyone by surprise, nobody more so than Samantha. After being on Death Row for 21 years, Dennis has a lot to do to catch up with the modern world, and she wants only to help him. He definitely didn’t kill that little girl, she knows that now… but what about the six other girls who disappeared and were never found?

I was never quite sure whether Samantha was going to turn out to be an unreliable narrator or not. There were several hints dropped through the book that she might not be quite as innocent as she initially appeared. I won’t spoil the ending for you - you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens - but I will say that I was surprised and at first a little frustrated by where the author left the story. After thinking about it for a while, though, I realised it was exactly the right spot to end on; it leaves the reader to make their mind up on exactly what happens next.

This is a cracking read. How much insight it gives into the minds of those who fall in love with dangerous killers behind bars, I couldn’t say, but for the enjoyment I received from it, I’d definitely give it 5 stars - and say it would make a superb film or TV series itself one day!
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The Innocent Wife initially piqued my interest because it draws some inspiration from Netflix’s Making a Murderer. It follows a mousy British woman, Samantha “Sam”, who finds a sense of purpose through joining a campaign to free a man from prison. Dennis Danson, who was convicted of a grisly murder, was the subject of a well-known documentary that assumes his innocence – and Sam is not only on board, she begins a letter-writing affair with him. Before long, she packs up her life and heads to Florida to marry the man. The campaign to free Dennis is eventually successful, he is exonerated…but Sam comes to realize that perhaps she was naïve in her belief that her husband was just a good guy who caught an unlucky break. If you have ever wondered how convicted murders so often can find women to marry then -- even while they are in prison! – then you might be interested to get inside of the head of Sam. She’s insecure and a bit off. It’s an interesting read from a characterization perspective, although I thought the plot had a bit too much stop-and-start.
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I know I am not the end all to what makes a good book or not. However, I have read many thrillers. There wasn't one point in this book where I got the thriller aspect of this book.

The characters are not likable or relatable. They are weak and weird. Their relationship, or lack their of, never made sense from the beginning. 

The plot is this book is the slowest, uneventful story I have read in a long time. The plot has no twists, no turns, no unpredictability. I saw everything coming long before it happened. There is no true climax, falling action or resolution. None of them. The story moves slowly with no real purpose.

When I first started this book, this wasn't the review I thought I would be writing. But, here I am, disappointed.

I have seen some of the rave reviews. Did we read the same book? I completely get that not every book is not for everyone. However, this one is not anywhere near a book I would call a thriller.
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