Cover Image: Hunting Annabelle

Hunting Annabelle

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Hunting Annabelle, Wendy Heard's impressive debut novel, is a truly engrossing read. From the moment I picked it up those pages were feverishly turning, faster and faster I flew until it was completely devoured. Despite having not been born until the late 1980s I thoroughly enjoyed the references to the times and thought it added a distinct mystique and intrigue to the story, and I loved how Heard builds her characters until they are complex, multi-layered and incredibly realistic. I found antagonist Sean Suh absolutely fascinating, and it's safe to say I was riveted.

There is such a wicked sense of foreboding that runs for the duration, and the author evokes a chilling, spine-tingling atmosphere that literally had goosebumps appearing on my arms at certain points. There are many twists and turns and the suspense is slowly ratcheted up over the course of the novel until it culminates in a breathtaking crescendo that shook me to the core. By making the antagonist someone who clearly has psychiatric issues and is one sandwich short of a picnic she adds an extra dose of unpredictability that often comes with the territory when it comes to individuals with mental health problems. Highly recommended and fully deserving of all the stars!

Many thanks to MIRA for an ARC.
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A dark and twisty (make that twisted) psychological thriller

Sean Suh is a mentally unstable 23 year-old man who lives with his famous neurosurgeon mother in Austin, Texas. He was institutionalized in an asylum for the criminally insane for three years for killing a young woman and is now "all better."

He spends every day at a small theme park, drawing portraits of different people who visit the park. One day he meets Annabelle, a beautiful young woman that he spends the day with, showing her hidden spots in the park, and the next day he sees her being kidnapped.

Because of his past history, the police don't believe his story so Sean starts tracking down clues himself.

This book started out great and the reader really gets a chance to find out what makes Sean tick but it is the final few chapters of the story that make this truly exceptional. Twists and turns and dead ends and blood - lots of blood.

Be forewarned that the book needs a trigger warnings posted on the first page. This isn't your granny's suspense novel (unless she happened to be related to Lizzie Borden).

I received this book from Harlequin/MIRA  through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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Fantastic debut novel. Will be looking out for more by this author. I loved the style and that it was set in the 1980's. A real page turner, definitely recommend 📚
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Recently released after three years in a psychiatric prison for murder, Sean Suh, 23, has moved with his mother from San Francisco to Austin, Texas in hopes of starting life anew. He spends every week day in Four Corners Park drawing sketches of people he sees there, sometimes obsessing about one and drawing them over and over and over again. He keeps to himself, not wanting to interact with anyone because it might tempt him to do bad things again.

Sean sees auras surrounding peoples heads which indicate their emotional state to him. He is captivated by Annabelle because of her unique (metallic copper) aura, and is surprised when she notices him and talks with him. The conversation prompts her to ask him to spend time together; infatuated, he agrees. Soon Sean feels that he loves her, but he is afraid that he will hurt her.

After spending a day together at Four Corners Park, Sean hears a scream and as he runs to check it out, he witnesses Annabelle being kidnapped! He reports it to the police immediately, but they seem to focus their investigation on him. Frustrated that they aren't doing anything to find the real kidnapper, he tries to track down people who knew Annabelle hoping he can find out what happened to her, and/or who would take her.

Hunting Annabelle is a quite delicious, taut psychological suspense! With a schizophrenic main character who loses time and has committed murder in the past, the reader (and Sean himself) doesn't know whether his version of the events surrounding Annabelle's disappearance can be trusted. 

There are twists in this book that I NEVER saw coming, and the ending was completely unexpected! It's rare that an author can pull that off and I applaud Wendy Heard for doing it. This is a definite must read - put it on your list now!!

My gratitude to NetGalley and Harlequin Mira for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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Yikes!  Well this book was different!!  Creepy, scary, sickening, puzzling, horrifying - - and fascinating.  Sean reminded me of when I used to watch Dexter (and always wondered at my sanity when I wanted Dexter to get away with his crimes!)  Through most of the book, we are kept in the dark as to whether Sean has given in to his demons.  The tension is kept up throughout the book and it's a page-turner of a read.  

I didn't especially like the ending but overall, it was a fascinating read.
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Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard, this book was totally unlike anything I have read before, it kept my attention and I had to know what was going on! Definitely a twisty,weird page turner. This is definitely an author I will be following and looking for more books from. Thank you Netgalley and the Publishers at MIRA books for allowing me to read this ARC book in turn for giving my opinion.
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Set in the 80's this is a creepy dark love story that reminds me a bit of Dexter. Heard is a new author and if this is her debut look out for more creepy fun to come. Sean spends most of his days at Four Corners sketching and wandering around. Diagnosed with Schizophrenia he is on a lot of medication that leave him missing time and in a haze.  The drugs are supposed to stop hallucinations and curb his desire to hurt people but Sean can still see colors swirling around other people and his desire to hurt hasn't gone away.  

Annabelle is a med student looking for a place to scatter her grandmothers ashes. She takes a liking to Sean and then suddenly she disappears, her screams echoing in Seans head.  The police think he had something to do with it and his missing time and violent past don't help his insistence that he is innocent.  Determined to find her Sean goes on a quest to discover what really happened to Annabelle. While experiencing symptoms of withdraw from his medication, he starts to feel more clear headed and more like himself, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? What Sean finds is not what I expected and the ending almost felt like a cliff hanger.  I could totally see this turning into a series. 

This is a fast paced thriller that leads you down twists and turns and has you routing for our flawed hero. Did he hurt Annabelle or is she really missing and if so who took her? Who are the bad guys in this book? The cops who set their sites on Sean because of his past, the mother who seems to want to keep her son medicated and locked away, or the well hidden predators that lurk and prey on innocents or is it Sean? Heard keeps you on the edge of your seat turning page after page just so you can find out the answers. Excellent.
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Sean Suh doesn’t do much with his days other than sitting in a park and drawing people he sees.  He was in a psychiatric prison for three years and is considered rehabilitated but he’s not at sure he has been.  He still has thoughts and urges that he shouldn’t have and his meds make him feel terrible.  When he meets beautiful Annabelle, he has hopes that he hasn’t felt in years.  But when Annabelle is kidnapped right in front of his eyes, the police give Sean a hard time and have difficult believing anything he says.  Sean’s determined to find Annabelle before it’s too late.

I initially was pulled into this book.  The main character, Sean Suh, reminded me of Norman Bates in The Bates Motel TV series.  Both were characters with psychiatric problems with controlling mothers but they were trying so hard to get better and redeem themselves for past deeds.  That was enough to keep me reading though I don’t think the book was very well written.  I did have sympathy for Sean.  Then I hit the last fourth of the book.  That’s when the author completely lost me.  The book ended up going in the direction I thought it would but I thought it was done in a very silly, cheap and gory way.  I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who wants to give this book a try but the last part of this book just turned me off and ruined anything of substance that I thought I had found in the rest of the book.  It may well just be me but this isn’t one I can recommend.  It had potential to be much better.

Not recommended.
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Thriller? Romance? Mystery? I have no idea how I would classify this compelling debut by Wendy Heard, but I know whatever it is…I want more!

Though predictable and a tad more Young Adult than I was prepared for, Hunting Annabelle is a thrilling ride with an adorably confused hero you just can’t help but love. With a fast pace and intriguing twists, you won’t want to put this one down.

With a debut like this I can’t wait to see what Heard comes out with next!!

I received this ebook through NetGalley and the publisher to read and provide my honest opinions.
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Hunting Annabelle is the debut novel from author Wendy Heard and it is unforgettable! This dark psychological thriller will take you on a wild ride where you are captivated and repelled by the story that unfolds! This story was a twisted tale told by an unreliable narrator who I liked and yet was appalled by. Sean struggled with his own dark urges but was also accepting of certain outcomes that most people would be horrified with. He is the type of character where you are torn over the fact that you just can’t bring yourself to dislike him completely even though, as the story goes on, you know you should.

I liked how this story started out, taking me around Sean’s world. It was bittersweet with Sean’s struggles with his mental illness and the introduction of Annabelle into his life. What Annabelle offered Sean was more addictive than any drug to someone who has been judged harshly time and time again. To offer him simple acceptance was something that Sean had never experienced and it was the sweetest of moments in this story. Sean’s feelings and struggles with this was endearing and what I kept going back to when his other actions would have made him detestable. It was the contrast between the light and dark in his soul that kept me engaged in this character.

The twists in this plot are zingers! The characters are well developed and memorable, even though you truly don’t want to remember them. The way this story develops I was helpless not to be drawn into it. The first ¾ths of the book were crazy but what I would expect from a psychological thriller but the last fourth of the book was fantastical and actually left me feeling a little let down, but only because I wanted things to be different for Sean. Though, I can’t say I hated the ending. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for but it was quite the ending and it would be a nice set-up if there were to be a sequel to this story. Overall, Hunting Annabelle was a marvelous debut novel and I will be anxiously anticipating further work from this author. It was a well done novel!

*Thank you to MIRA Books & NetGalley for this eARC of Hunting Annabelle*

This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
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A phenomenal debut that masters both the art of writing memorable characters, and the art of pacing in this horror / psych thriller mashup.
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3.5 stars.

Set during the mid 1980s, Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard is a suspenseful mystery featuring an unreliable narrator who is desperately searching for a missing woman.

Recently relocated from San Francisco, Sean Suh lives in Austin, TX with his neurosurgeon mother. Sean spent several years in a psychiatric facility after he was convicted of murder.  He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but a strict medication regime appears to be keeping most of his symptoms at bay. Sean spends his days in a local amusement park where he eventually meets Annabelle Callaghan. Completely enamored by the young women, Sean is horrified when she is kidnapped right in front of him. Sean immediately reports the incident to the police who initially do not take her disappearance seriously. Sean is certain Annabelle is in danger and while he is attempting to locate her, the police begin to view him as a suspect after they learn about his past.  Although he sometimes doubts his recollections, Sean remains convinced Annabelle is in grave danger. He uncovers some very shocking information about her but how does this revelation figure into Annabelle’s disappearance?

Sean is a surprising sympathetic character considering his background. He is rather aimless since he has not made any attempt to plan for his future. He is a gifted artist but his daily cocktail of antipsychotics and antidepressants leave him foggy and prone to losing time. Sean works hard to keep his memories of his horrific crime at bay as he battles the occasional murderous impulse.  He is immediately enchanted by Annabelle but Sean is well aware there is no chance of a future with her.

Following Annabelle’s disappearance, Sean turns amateur sleuth as he tries to find her. His investigation takes on a bit of a nostalgic feel  due to the time period.  Without cell phones or the internet, Sean utilizes phone books and maps to track down the people in Annabelle’s life. Going to her small hometown is the obvious place to find answers and Sean unearths unsettling details that does not jibe with his vision of Annabelle. But can this information help him find the missing woman?

Hunting Annabelle is a slow-paced mystery with a dark storyline.  Sean is trying to keep out of trouble and his mother keeps him on a fairly tight leash. By all appearances, Annabelle is a charming young woman with a bright future ahead of her.  The novel is well-written with a clever plot, but Sean’s search for Annabelle becomes a bit tedious and repetitious.  Wendy Heard brings this unique mystery to a twist-filled yet improbably conclusion.
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Hunting Annabelle
Wendy Heard
MIRA (December 18, 2018)
13-digit ISBN number 978-0778369349
Suanne Schafer 

Wow! Hunting Annabelle grabs readers from the start. Told in first person by Sean Suh, who has served three years in a psychiatric prison, the reader is immediately dragged into his lonely, dark, seemingly-twisted mind. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Sean lives with his Korean mother, a well-known, well-respected physician, but a cold unloving mother. 

Sean is an anti-hero deluxe. He knows he’s a monster and does his best to stay away from temptation, to avoid giving in to his urges to throttle women. Sean “loses time,” frequently feels drugged out by his psych meds, and has some PTSD symptoms from his time on the psych ward. There are enough hints that perhaps he isn’t as crazy as his diagnosing physicians assumed when they planted the schizophrenic label on him. 

One day, at his usual hang-out, he is attracted to Annabelle—and, surprisingly, she to him. When Sean sees her being kidnapped, the lack of instant access to information slows the police investigation, so Sean launches his own investigation.

Heard does a superlative job capturing the 1980s with its lack of cell phones, faxes, and email. Also the milieu of the psychiatric world and the medications used to treat schizophrenia at the time. Heard also does a terrific job getting the reader to empathize with the oddball Sean.

Underneath the book lurks a current of menace—enough that I almost put the book down, fearing I wouldn’t be able to sleep. However, I was completely sucked in to Sean’s twisted mind.

Hunting Annabelle is twisted and dark and a bit creepy with a couple of totally unpredictable, yet very logical, twists at the end. I read this back-to-back with Joe Clifford’s upstate New York noir The One that Got Away and found the two books really complemented each other.
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I’m going to give this a 3.5. It was a twisty page turner. I like the unreliable narrator and the time period of the 80’s.
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Oh wow. Put some time away for this book. It has all the ingredients for a terrific psychological thriller.

No spoilers from me.  Book is great with lots of lies, deception, tragedy, and twists. Also, loved the unpredictable ending.  Can't say enough great about this. Read it today!!

Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this fabulous book.
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A quirky, unique and fascinating read; I absolutely loved this book. The choice of a schizophrenic main character with a history of violence makes for a truly different perspective & a very unreliable narrator. This lends a real sense of confusion and disorientation to the story and makes for a compelling page-turner. Highly, highly recommended.
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I loved that I had no idea what was going to happen. It wasn't a book I knew the ending two chapters in. I highly recommend this book to all mystery/thriller lovers. You will not be disappointed!  A gripping read that will have you second guessing everything!!
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This was a tailspin of a read.

Sean Suh has a history of killing and has been diagnosed schizophrenic, but he has served his sentence and is released into the wild.  Following his release from a psychiatric prison after three years, Sean is confident he is done with killing and is determined not to hurt anyone again.  Until he meets Annabelle and his urges are reignited.

On their first date, she is abducted and Sean witnesses the entire event.  Given his history and his laundry list of medication, Sean’s credibility is unreliable at best; but he is determined to find her.  Will Sean’s hunt for Annabelle release his inner demons and set him back in his rehabilitation and recovery? Who can he trust when he’s been isolated from the outside world for years.

This was a dark and twisted read with A LOT of creep.  I was hooked immediately at page 1 and never looked back.  Wendy Heard is genius with this fresh take on a psychological thriller – I never saw that ending coming.  I thought I had it all figured out (I initially thought it was all in Sean’s head and he was hallucinating all that had transpired the night Annabelle went missing). Wendy Heard’s version was much better than what I had anticipated.  Truly TWISTED.  My compliments to the author on this debut.

I’m still reeling from all of the curve balls this book threw at me. I highly recommend this one to psych thriller fiction fans.
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Hunting Annabelle is one of those titles I have been looking forward to for quite some time now. The blurb sounded fantastic, with a mental health angle and a potentially dangerous and unreliable main character. And there is no doubt that Hunter Annabelle isn't your ordinary thriller read. While I do think the story read more YA than adult despite the twenty-something characters, this doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it any less. And the fact that the story is set in 1986 instead of the present is an interesting touch, because although not as present in the plot as a whole, it does show in the little details (mostly referring to the developments in mental health and police investigation). All in all it definitely wasn't the story I was expecting, but mostly in a good way. The writing on its own is engaging and the use of the unreliable narrator method well developed. The main character Sean is the perfect unreliable narrator candidate and him being both the good and bad guy at once is refreshing. While I did have some issues with the credibility and some of the plot twists, I do think that overall it was quite an interesting and original read. I wasn't sure about the final twists and chapters though... It seemed a bit farfetched and too big of change for me. But all in all I can still recommend Hunting Annabelle to any mystery/thriller fan looking for something different and refreshing.

If you are looking for an interesting thriller read with an original touch, Hunting Annabelle is a good option. Set in 1986, this story doesn't follow the typical thriller structure and plot and with the help of unreliable narrator Sean you will find yourself spinning in circles while you try to figure out what is happening. The final twists were a bit too farfetched and over the top to be credible for me, but it definitely isn't something you will see coming... Dark, intriguing, a healthy dose of blood and serial killer and a very interesting mental health angle: Hunting Annabelle has it all.
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HA-Hunting Annabelle is a 1st person POV about a Korean man and twenty three that after two dates with a mysterious girl, she is kidnnaped and he is trying to find out if its true or not and what come out of it.

Sean the main character had spend three years in a psychiatry hospital after an awful event. He lives with a controlling mother who has reasons to make he seems helpless. Throughout we learn more about him and his family dinamic and why his mother wants him to stay away of the investigation about Annabelle.

The book has a lot of potential and yet we really to sympathize for what he has suffer but I did not feel that he needed to go beyond his safe zone to save her.
I get that he likes and could feel that he wanted rede em himself.
We learn some things about Annabelle but I did not seems real, the last 80% was rushed and the things that were happened was unreal. I thought if she had some POVs I would have understood her. Sean is in a limbo and I am not sure with will be a good solution.
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