Member Reviews

Bright and Deadly Things is an atmospheric and well written locked room thriller by Lexie Elliott. Released 14th Feb 2023 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 384 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is an engaging thriller with a strong (and never fully explored) paranormal element set in a remote and secluded chalet in the French Alps. A group of Oxford academics have gathered at the chalet, operated as a retreat by the university. Based on a factual retreat (blissfully free of malevolent grandfather clocks), it's a perfect setting for a creepy gothic locked room murder mystery thriller, and the author manages to get great mileage out of it.

The author has a firm grasp of narrative tension and this is a prime example of mastery of setting and atmosphere. I was continually surprised and impressed by how darned *creepy* the book was without resorting to major jump scares, gore, or indeed anything explicit. The ensemble cast is an eclectic, disparate group, and the story is full of dread without anything specific happening in most of the first half of the book.

There is one short and slightly explicit scene with sex in the book, but even that one is both integral to the plot and infused with a distinctly nightmarish quality, not titillating in the slightest. The climax, denouement, and resolution are self contained in the story and were moderately satisfying. For fans of Ruth Ware and Valerie Keogh, this one will tick a lot of the same boxes.

Four stars. Creepy and compelling.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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A slow burning suspense of the locked room variety, this one started out really strong for me, but fizzled a bit at the half way point. I do think most seasoned crime fiction readers will figure out the big reveal well before intended, but the sense of place, atmosphere, and characterization are excellent and well developed. If you enjoy mysteries and do not mind the slow pacing, I’d recommend giving this one a try.

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Quick and Dirty⁣
-locked room (kinda) murder mystery⁣
-dark academia⁣
-remote/isolated setting⁣
-creepy supernatural vibes⁣

The emotional fog is finally starting to lift for Emily. Her husband's recent death derailed her momentarily, but she's finally getting her life and career back on track. Next stop, the Chalet des Anglais with a small group of fellow Oxford educators and students. This remote chalet in the French alps is as remote as they come, giving her and her fellow academics an opportunity to unplug, research, and relax. But things get off to a rocky start when Emily's home is broken into the night before she leaves for France. But trouble and tragedy seem to follow her. ⁣

This was my first novel by this author, and hopefully, it will not be my last. I enjoyed this book from start to finish, finding it a super fast read that kept me engaged throughout. The author does a great job capturing the higher academia dynamics (I dated a Professor for many years), from the social hierarchies to the in-fighting/competition. The grief subplot was sort of lost in the suspense of the murder mystery, which I found a little disappointing. If ever there was a reason for a narrator to be unreliable it would be intense grief, so that seemed like a missed opportunity. What I did appreciate was that no one character was unreliable; they all were experiencing the same dreams and altered reality. Given the influence over the entire cast, I wanted a bit more of an explanation for the supernatural subplot. Overall, the suspense was there to keep this moving forward. I think anyone who enjoys dark academia will find this enjoyable.

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If you’ve read anything by Lexie Elliot, then you know her talent of writing atmospheric stories that are pure escapism. You also know her ability to write groups of friends/colleagues who are all truly TERRIBLE to each other.

Things I enjoyed:

▪️Emily- she was dealing with a truly insane set of circumstances and continually fought to rise above.

▪️The narration- while Fiona Hardingham takes on the majority of the narration, having a full cast of narrators worked so well!

▪️The creepy grandfather clock- no spoilers I promise, but I would love to see a series of short stories of different groups dealing with that creepy clock.

▪️I thought the author did a great job bringing the story home as there is a lot going on!

Things that didn’t quite work:

▪️The pacing wasn’t great. Bright and Deadly Things is a slow burn and then certain moments seemed rushed.

Overall, this one fell a little bit flat for me, but I am still curious to see what Lexie Elliot does next!

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Emily has been invited to spend a few weeks at the Chalet des Anglais, an Oxford-owned chalet in the French Alps, part of an exclusive group that includes friends and colleagues as well as a few undergrads. She’s recently widowed and hopes the break will help her move on from the fog of grief that’s kept her spellbound. But she soon finds an undercurrent of tension and dread, not to mention that competition for a newly-opened position is creating an undertow of unpleasantness amongst her closest friends and colleagues.

Things got off to a rocky start. First Emily missed her flight, then she returned home to interrupt an intruder in the act of ransacking her husband’s study. Even in France, her laptop is suspiciously warm to the touch, and she takes to hiding it under her mattress. The chalet itself has a dark history, with a grandfather clock that seems to brood over the gathering with an air of horror. It literally seems to bring out the worst in everyone.

When one of the undergrads is found dead, Emily finds herself in the position of not knowing who she can trust. Are old friends really all that they seem? Is the chalet as menacing as it feels?

I really enjoyed reading Bright and Deadly Things. Most of the narrative is told from Emily’s point of view, but we read occasional diary entries from other characters. Things build and build to a very satisfying denouement, that while I didn’t exactly see coming, fit in with the opinions I’d formed of the various characters. A great read! Highly recommended.

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Emily is still grieving the death of her husband, on her way to a reading retreat in the Alps at the Chalet des Anglais when she interrupts a break-in at her house. It seems nothing has been taken, however, her husband’s office has been disturbed. Could his past research have been the target? Emily continues onto the chalet with lots of questions.

At the chalet she’ll been meeting up with friends, but also colleagues of her departed husband. A very rustic location with no running water or electricity, it’s supposed to invigorate the mind, but tensions are high between the guests. Emily finds her things have been searched, most notably her dead husband’s old laptop and then a beautiful student with a controversial past goes missing. Then there’s the old clock that survived a previous fire that unsettles everyone. Was there a bit of a paranormal aspect to it? Not sure.

Bright and Deadly Things was an interesting, atmospheric mystery. Mostly told from Emily’s perspective you get the unease she feels and that builds as the story continues on. Emily suspects there’s something about her husband’s research at play but she’s not sure why it’s important or which of the guests could be responsible for her break-in and repeated attempts to access the computer. The missing student is whole other situation that I won’t spoil, but there are several potential suspects.

I enjoyed this story and was fully invested in the mystery. I like Emily a lot. There was an undercurrent of danger, and she didn’t know quite where it was coming from. She was very much the amateur detective searching for the truth, not knowing or being able to trust just about anyone staying at the chalet. There was also a bit of romance for Emily and I was completely on board for it.

It is interesting to note that the Chalet des Anglais is an actual reading retreat the author attended, located in the alpine mountains, used by Oxford University since 1891. It sounded like a beautiful spot, but I’d be a little spooked visiting there after reading this!

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Bright and Deadly Things is the latest release from Lexie Elliott, one of my go-to authors. I was so excited for this release and it did not disappoint.

This story follows Emily, an Oxford fellow, who recently lost her husband and is battling overwhelming grief. As she is getting her life back on track, she gets an offer to attend a retreat at the Chalet des Anglais in the French Alps.

This is a bit of a tradition for Oxford fellows and scholars. It's looked on as a 'reading week', where they can go and engage in any academic pursuit they so choose. They live in the Chalet together, drink, dine and engage in what are hoped to be enlightening discussions. Of course, when you get a bunch of adults living together under one roof, you're also sure to get a lot of drama.

Also attending are Emily's BFF, Jana, as well as other friends and coworkers of her and her late-husband's. There are also a few students, who although Emily doesn't know them personally, all seem interesting enough.
Most interesting is a girl named Sofi. The kind of girl who all eyes go to when she enters a room. She seems to be the black sheep of the bunch, but is sure to add some entertainment value and a bit of uncomfortablity.

Just prior to the trip, Emily walked in on an intruder who had broken into her house. Even though nothing was taken, she's left rattled by the encounter. Later she hears her office building was broken into as well. As her time in the French Alps begins, she cannot shake the feeling that someone is after her, or spying on her, or worse. Is it just nerves, brought on by grief and the break-ins, or is it something more?

Bright and Deadly Things had a great set-up. I really enjoyed meeting Emily and going on this journey with her. The rest of the cast were very intriguing as well. When it starts to feel like someone is after her, messing with her really, I suspected everyone of having it in for Emily. I really couldn't suss out who could be behind the mysterious occurrences. I also considered a Murder on the Orient Express scenario; that's how well Elliott disguised the truth behind what was happening.

You might be wondering, what is the actual mystery here, is there a murder, etc. I don't want to go into any of that specifically, as I feel it's best to go into this one knowing as little as possible. I will say that it is a whole host of things that contribute to a general overriding feeling of dread and anxiety. Here they are at this very remote location, cut off from the world with no phones, wifi, or even electricity. Tensions run high in a competitive academic environment and feelings, amongst other things, are bound to get hurt.

I was really feeling for Emily. A lot of the things happening to her are quite scary. I don't know what I would have done in her shoes; probably would have just kicked some butt and asked questions later.

One of my favorite things about Elliott's writing is her deep sense of place. You always know where her stories are set, the environment, local area, vibe, etc. All these aspects are an important part of her storytelling and I love that. Honestly, I always want that. I want to be able to feel like I am there too, right along with the characters, no matter what they are going through.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable reading experience for me. I always enjoy Lexie Elliott's writing style. Her sense of place, character work and slow-burn suspense is very well suited to my tastes.

I was pulled into this one from the beginning. I was invested all the way. Elliott kept me in the dark enough to keep me engaged and guessing throughout. I also liked the light 'is it supernatural, is it not supernatural' vibes.
The setting and academic atmosphere were great as well. This takes dark academia on a bit of a field trip.

Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can't wait to see where Lexie Elliott takes us next!

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Imagine being in at a remote chalet with some of your coworkers when everything goes wrong. I was sold initially on the synopsis of this book.

Getting to the end was very difficult for me. I would set it down and come back. It was so slow moving that I almost DNF'd it. Slow burn thrillers are definitely not for me.

I loved Emily's character and the friendship bond she had with Will. I felt there were too many characters for me to keep track of in the book. The twist at the end of the book definitely made it worthwhile.

Thank you to @letstalkbookpromos @berkleypub and @netgalley for the #gifted copy of the book.

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I usually enjoy thrillers, but I’ve realized slow burn, suspense-filled ones are not my thing. While I appreciate the author setting up the story with lots of detail and tension-building, I was not very invested.

The characters were all pretty irritable, except the MC, and were predictable. There were some good twists, but a lot were obvious.

I really think this was just not the book for me, but I think others would enjoy it. The end did give some good closure and the feeling I had at the very end of the book is the way I wish I felt throughout the whole thing.

Thanks to the publisher for a gifted copy.

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A group of scientists are invited to stay at a Chateau high in the Alps, Emily is still mourning the death of her husband and hopes the trip will help her to deal with her grief. The history of the Chateau is a somewhat dark one having burnt to the ground once before. There is a grandfather clock that seems ominous as well

Emily wonders who among the group might be responsible for trying to hack into her husbands laptop and why. As the days go by, tensions rise among the group and eventually one member turns up dead.

Lexie Elliot has written a couple of very good thrillers but this was not one her best. The pacing was slow, character development average and the general storyline was not very engaging.

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A remote back-to-basics mountaintop retreat in the French Alps turns deadly as an Oxford fellow finds herself in the crosshairs of her late husband’s dangerous secrets.
The Chalet des Anglais should be the ideal locale for recently-widowed Oxford don Emily to begin cutting through the fog of her grief. With no electricity, running water, or access by car, the rustic chalet nestled at the foot of the verdant, snow-topped Alps should afford Emily both time and space to heal. Joining her will be a collection of friends from the university, as well as other fellows, graduates, and undergraduates.
Something feels off, though—heightening Emily’s existing grief-induced anxiety. Before even making it to the airport, she’s unnerved by a break-in at her home. Once at the chalet, tension amongst the guests is palpable. Her friends and colleagues are behaving oddly, and competition for a newly opened position has introduced a streak of meanness into the otherwise relaxing getaway. As hostilities grow, Emily begins to wonder if the chalet’s dark history has cast a shadow over the retreat. In the salon, a curious grandfather clock looms, the only piece of furniture to survive a deadly blaze a century ago. As its discordant bell begins to invade everyone’s dreams, someone very real has been searching through Emily’s things and attempting to hack into her computer.
When a student disappears, Emily realizes that she’d better separate friend from foe, and real from imagined—or the next disappearance may be her own.

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Emily heads off to a Swiss chalet with some fellow Oxford friends to heal from her husband’s death. But a break-in starts things off and suddenly is the least of her worries.
This has a great atmosphere and some speculative elements included. It was a fast read.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for gifting me a digital copy in exchange for my honest review of Bright and Deadly Things by Lexie Elliott - 4.5 stars!

A group of Oxford professors, postgrad and undergrad students assemble at the Chalet des Anglais in the Alps for a week of study, collaboration, and relaxation. The chalet has neither electricity nor running water, and no reliable cellphone coverage, Emily was especially looking forward for a chance to unwind. A recent widow, she is still rattled by a break in at both her home and office in the past days. There is tension amongst the group because some of them are vying for the same deputy position. But then Emily thinks that someone has broken into her room and tried to access her deceased husband's computer. That's only the first of bad events, and Emily doesn't know who she can trust.

I am a huge fan of locked room mysteries. Take a group of educated people, all with varying motives for the various incidents, add a secluded atmosphere, and one very creepy clock with a strange history and you have yourself a great read! I really liked Emily's character and how she remained true to her values, even when dealing with so much. This is the first book I've read of Lexie Elliott and I'm now anxious to read more of her work.

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There is something that gives me the creep factor when reading about a Chalet with no running water, no electricity or any access by car that really heightens the suspense.
Recently widowed and drowning in grief, Emily is looking forward to the retreat but a break in, jealousy and animosity sends her nerves on edge. After a student disappears Emily feels the danger surrounding her. Also, has a grandfather clock ever been so creepy?! I don’t want to say too much but this was a suspenseful one!
Thank you
Huge thank you to @berkleypub @berittalksbooks @thephdivabooks @dg_reads and @netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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A group of professors and students from Oxford rent a chalet in the French Alps with no electric, no running water and no access by car. What could go wrong?

This was a slow burn mystery, I wouldn’t call it a thriller. It was atmospheric with the rustic chalet setting, and I loved that it was set in the French Alps. There were quite a few characters where some played more major roles in the story and others were just there in the background. The story was told via Emily, a professor who recently lost her husband with diary entries throughout by the other characters. There was a murder but I felt the suspense and urgency to find out what really happened was lacking and overall the pacing was just too slow for me.

This book is for those who enjoy slow burn mysteries set in a secluded setting.

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Happy Pub Day to Bright and Deadly Things by Lexie Elliott. I immediately fell into the pace of this book and was absorbed. What stood out to me was the characterization and how each character felt real and I was able to understand their motivations. As the story progressed and the suspense propelled the action forward, I was excited to find out the conclusion and if I had gotten it right. This is a great book if you’re looking for atmosphere and suspense.

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In Bright and Deadly Things, author Lexie Elliott gives readers great, conflicted characters and a beautiful yet remote and challenging setting. The narrator, Emily Rivers, is a recently widowed Oxford don. She along with several close co-workers and students travel to the university-owned chalet in the French Alps for a scholarly retreat. What would appear to be an idyllic escape to reset before the start of the next semester begins with a robbery and ends in tragedy.

Emily is a strong female character who has been hobbled by her grief; the loss of her husband and subsequent unreliability (to work and friends) make her question some of the feelings and thoughts she has at the remote chalet, but overall she is a reliable narrator. While Emily is the primary narrator, I loved the interspersed passages from her colleagues in the form of their diary entries. Those passages not only gave me insight into the other characters, but also gave credence to some of the more hysterical-feeling thoughts presented by Emily.

There is a slow-building tension as Emily and the other Chaletites suffer the overbearing and sinister-feeling intrusions of a grandfather clock within the chalet. Like the historic diaries found in the chalet, the pace of Bright and Deadly things is uneven. I found, again like the aforementioned diaries, that there were some unnecessarily long descriptions of the remote location. While the landscape around the chalet is critical to some scenes, I could have used shorter descriptive passages.

I was intrigued by the premise, and I thoroughly enjoyed the well-crafted story. The storyline slowly peels away the layers of the complex characters revealing their motivations and true nature The plot is straightforward with no substantial twists, but the very atmospheric setting and persistent sense of foreboding make for excellent storytelling.

4.5 stars

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If you like locked room thrillers, this one is for you. (Although, it’s more of a rustic chalet in the woods at the foot of the Alps.) Emily’s husband has recently passed away and she is off to an academic retreat with colleagues and students from Oxford. She misses her flight and walks in to a home invasion. Still, she goes on the trip thinking it will be good for her to clear her mind. You probably guessed that it was not the relaxing, intellectual pursuit that she was seeking. A student goes missing, etc.


I felt like I have read version of this before. If you are a thriller lover, this one may hit right for you.

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Dr. Emily Rivers, a recently widowed Oxford fellow, accepts an invitation to stay at the Chalet des Anglais, a retreat in the French Alps without running water or electricity owned by the university. She is hoping that the stay, with both long-time colleagues and undergraduates new to her, will help jump-start her healing.

The trip, however, begins inauspiciously. When she misses her flight and returns home, she finds a burglar in her house. Once she arrives at the Chalet, she learns that her university office had been broken into. Uncomfortable intrusions follow her to France—she is sure someone tried to access her computer. Meanwhile, three of the men are vying for a coveted position, and their efforts to one-up each other belie the spirit of collaboration historically characterizing the summer retreats. All the while, an ominous grandfather clock, the only piece from the Chalet to survive a fire one hundred years earlier, casts a mystifying spell over the guests.

Emily thought things couldn’t get worse, but then one of the young women on the trip disappears. She realizes she has to use her scientific background to assess the people in the Chalet and determine who is guilty of trying to sabotage her—and others—even if it is the most unlikely candidate.

The setting of BRIGHT AND DEADLY THINGS—a difficult to reach rural French chalet—is both beautiful and harrowing. You can imagine wanting to be in the area, but haunted by the history of the Chalet and frustrated if not frightened by the limited contact with the outside. A perfect setting for a thriller! The pacing for me was a little off, though, and it wasn’t until one of the party went missing that I felt the momentum of the story pick up. Diary entries offer perspectives of multiple characters, but were inconsistently utilized, and I though the supernatural element was interesting but underdeveloped. I was surprised by the culprit but wanted more comeuppance in the text.

I am a sensitive reader when it comes to some topics, and in this book, I was bothered by unnecessary body shaming and making the vegan character a stereotype and butt of jokes.

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If you need action right from start to finish, this might not be the one for you, but, if you like a slow-building atmospheric mystery, you’re going to want to grab a copy of Lexie Elliot’s @lexieelliottwrites Bright and Deadly Things.

It’s got locked-room vibes sprinkled with a few things that can’t be logically explained, keeping me flipping pages in a must-know-who-did-it frenzy. If you know, you know.

Thanks to @berkleypub and @mbc_books for sending this gorgeous finished copy my way and happy pub day tomorrow to Bright and Deadly Things!

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