Cover Image: This is How We End Things

This is How We End Things

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

3.5 stars.

This was a solid and decently written locked room mystery, with some suspenseful moments. It read more like a detective novel/police procedural than a thriller though… It almost felt like it was setting up an ongoing detective series and had the vibe of being the first of many.

The backdrop of the psychological experiment didn’t feel fully developed to me, and wasn’t strictly even necessary for the execution of the plot. Really it just gave the reader the expectation that all the players involved were used to—if not good at—lying. The snow storm setting however, was a lot of fun and really amped up the tension and isolation aspect of the story.

The characters themselves lacked some development and could have been a little more fleshed out, in my opinion. You never really come to a point where you care about what happens to any of them. Honestly, the psychology student’s POVs were totally overshadowed by the police detective’s POV, which very much dominated and added to the feeling of this being a detective novel, not a psychological thriller.

Overall there was nothing groundbreaking here, but the story was enjoyable. The twist was expected, although not poorly done. If you're looking for shock value and mind-blowing twists, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a quick, cozy mystery/detective story for fall, this could be your thing. This could be a great fit for fans of Lucy Foley, Sarah Pearse, and Alex Michaelides.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Solid 4⭐️ for this one! I had so many theories about who was responsible… and towards the end one of them ended up being true, but I definitely didn’t figure out the why, so it was still thrilling to finally know what was going on! I enjoyed the dark academia vibes in this one and found the questionable social experiments very interesting!

Was this review helpful?

This book, from my perspective, did not get off to a great start, to the point where I almost gave up on it. But, once past that first chapter, the storyline started to kick in and the characters started to develop. From there it picked up quite a lot and became quite a page turner.
The story is set on a University campus where a group of psychology students are running an experiment that tricks their participants in quite a harsh way, this becomes apparent where a participant completely loses his temper and starts making threats. This becomes a serious situation and the experiment looks like it may get shut down. However, things take a more sinister turn when one of them is murdered and it all points to being an 'inside job'.
Thank you Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this digital ARC.

Was this review helpful?

The clever setting for THIS IS HOW WE END THINGS is a social psychology department at a fictional North Carolina university. The campus is nearly abandoned during winter break, but a group of doctoral students remains to work on their joint project related to deception and lying. The students, their professor, and a single campus security guard are the only people left on campus, so when a murder occurs, this becomes a locked-room (or locked-campus) psychological thriller.

The detective, Alana Larson, new to town, is told by one of the students early on that she needs to be cautious since all of them are trained in hiding deception. Thus, as a record-breaking snowstorm hits the university, and Larson, the professor, and the students are in danger, Larson must track down the secrets held in each of the characters' pasts as well as the lies that they are telling in the present.

The university setting and particularly the social psychology graduate student perspective is very well written. I have a psych degree and was married to a social psych professor, and the setting rang true. There are a fair number of references to research protocols and famous social psychological studies, which might put some readers off but which actually enriched the narrative for me. I don't think of North Carolina as a natural location for a major snowstorm, but the fact that this was an unusual event provided background for the characters' lack of readiness and enhanced the "locked-in" feel of the book.

Because the department's research focused on deception, the plot was extremely twisty, with new revelations about characters constantly surfacing. The book is divided into short sub-chapters told from various characters' perspectives. This helps to move the plot along quickly.

The ending justifies the book's categorization as a thriller, with a very fast-paced final third of the book. Despite the violence and death that were a part of the plot, the author manages to end the book with hope for at least some of the characters. The one thing that I found superfluous was the final scene with a final twist. I could see it coming and it felt too much like a plot manipulation. The book would have been better without it.

This is the first of Jacobs' books that I've read, but it won't be the last

Was this review helpful?

A mind-boggling whodunit, dark academia, isolated snowy setting and deep dive into human psychology? Count me in!

I wouldn't call this a locked room thriller per se because the story (and killings) takes place in multiple locations and the characters are stranded only in the climax. Nevertheless, this was a suspenseful and intriguing read that kept me guessing throughout.

The book has a gripping opening chapter was quite the page-turner. I loved the fresh premise but wish there had been more about the tests (I still have some confusion about those) and that we went deeper into the human psyche, which instead felt more like a plot device here.

I liked getting to know the characters but unfortunately half of them were so unremarkable and could have been developed more. E.g. what was the point of Veronica? We get to hear a lot from the least interesting person (Scarlett) and there wasn't enough of everyone else.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but was ultimately left mildly unsatisfied by how it all played out. It's a solid and entertaining thriller, but not the most outstanding.

Was this review helpful?

A graduate student has been found brutally murdered at Dorrance University. Her fellow graduate students with whom she has been working with become suspects as does a professor and a student subject. A winter storm blows in and another person is murdered making everyone all that more suspicious and afraid.

Everyone has their secrets and some secrets make them much more suspicious than others. They are students of psychology which makes things all that much more sinister. You'll double guess yourself more than once on who the culprit is. This is a fast paced read with lots of characters who are easily distinguishable due to their unique traits.

Was this review helpful?

Dark Academia ✅
Psychology of Deception ✅
Whodunit Mystery ✅

Mini Review:
All these elements drew me to This Is How We End Things. The twisty plot and multiple unreliable POVs move the story at a breakneck pace, creating a very binge-worthy book. Add in a snowstorm (locked room sub-genre) makes this perfect to add to your fall/winter TBR.

Chelsea Stephens performs an excellent narration, adding tone and inflection to create even more tension and eeriness to this atmospheric story! But the large cast of characters made me gravitate to the physical book, and, often, I read along while Stephens narrated. I suggest pairing the two formats if you can for a well-balanced (albeit stressful - a thriller lover’s favorite) experience.

Was this review helpful?

This one was a psychological treat! It was fast paced, and I loved the academic atmosphere of the whole book. It kept me guessing until all was revealed. I think the only con for me was that there were so many characters that I didn't feel fully connected with any of them. I still really enjoyed the story overall, though.

I would recommend this book.

Was this review helpful?

Nashville psychologist R.J. Jacobs is back with a gripping, academic thriller. A group of North Carolina graduate students is conducting research experiments on the psychology behind deception and lying.

During a snowstorm, the students are trapped on the abandoned college campus. When one of the group turns up dead, each student works independently—along with the police—to determine the killer. But, if a student researches the art of deception, might they also learn to be a skilled liar?

Lies and secrets abound, and who knows who is telling the truth in this twisty page turner..

Was this review helpful?

This is How We End Things was such a quick and atmospheric read. I really loved the premise of this book that gave off all the dark academia vibes. I loved the campus setting, the psychology insights incorporated throughout the book and how it was partly set during a snowstorm which added to the intensity of the story. There were a lot of characters introduced at the beginning of the book but I was able to learn them pretty quickly, especially as we got multiple perspectives which kept things interesting. Everyone was a suspect and had their own secrets which kept me on my toes and wanting to keep reading. I liked how the topics of lies and deception were weaved in the story which left me second guessing a lot of things and I didn't really predict much which made for a fun ride! There weren't many chapters in this book which made them pretty long which I personally don't love, but this one still worked for me because of the timely POV shifts that made it less daunting.

Overall, I enjoyed this one and rated it 3.5 to 4 stars! If you are looking for a campus setting thriller that centers on a group of psychology students written in multiple perspectives where everyone is hiding their secrets, check out This Is How We End Things!

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the eARC.

I am really finding that dark academic is a vibe for me. This book was no different. While it may have been a bit predictable, that did not take away my enjoyment of the story. Certainly think this will be one many are interested in reading.

Was this review helpful?

Graduate students in the Hull University psychology department in North Carolina are working on a research project involving dishonesty. When one of them is killed and then their professor, a female detective with a troubled past becomes involved in the case along with campus security.

The premise of this book was good. However, I was able to guess the killer quite early in the story. The characters had their own personalities and hidden agendas which added interest but lacked cohesiveness.

If you enjoy academic mysteries and have a hard time guessing who-dun-it, you might want to give this a try.

Was this review helpful?

This Is How We End Things by R. J. Jacobs

Joe Lyons is a rock star. As the head of psychology at Dorrance University, he’s internationally renowned for his cutting edge research, even if his methods are perhaps less than acceptable to many contemporary ethics boards:

QUOTE
Layer by layer, the details of [his] experiment had been revealed to her: A study on dishonesty that necessitated deceiving the subjects. It was the daring kind of experiment that modern Institutional Review Boards never green-lighted anymore because of its potential for causing psychological harm. But it was also precisely the kind of study that had made Joe Lyons prominent in the field.

No one took risks in research like he did.

Not for forty years.
END QUOTE

Joe’s latest experiment is on the subject of disinformation, a topic he’s passionate about. He (not wrongly) believes that learning how and why people engage in the dissemination and acceptance of fake news could change the face of modern society. After all, previous celebrated experiments on prisoners and fascism helped change the public conversation, if not outright policy, regarding incarceration and government. His work on disinformation could have a similar impact. What does it matter if a few individual feelings get hurt in the process?

Since Joe isn’t a complete monster, he’s decided to add another key member to his small team. Veronica Haskins has no background in research but did recently graduate with a law degree. Her specialty is in managing liability, and her initial recommendations immediately make her unpopular with her new colleagues. Robert Barlowe, their de facto leader and Joe’s right hand man, is happy enough to go along with whatever makes Joe happy, as is Elizabeth Colton, the beautiful grad student who’s grown suspiciously close with Joe. Prickly, hyper-focused Britt Martinez, on the other hand, has no qualms about showing her disdain for the newcomer and the limitations she’s placing on their research. Athletic rich kid Chris Collins is also antagonistic.

That pretty much leaves it to the last member of the team, Scarlett Simmons, to smooth things over. This is a task that comes naturally to her, even if she has her own private misgivings about how things are going:

QUOTE
Robert’s comment echoed in her mind. The moral compass, was that really her role? And if so, where were the moral compasses of the other team members? She hadn’t thought of the teams’ deception as more than harmless mischief, but had she lost her directionality? Was there more danger in the experiment than she dared to face? Scarlett had idealized the team early on: the close-knit planning sessions, endless drip coffees, and stacks of papers were exactly as she’d pictured them when she’d applied. University life in general suited her, strolling manicured paths between storied lecture halls and world-class laboratories, while guitar notes from students drifted in the wind, felt invigorating enough to justify the worrisome debt she’d taken on, the bills she struggled to pay, and the unvarying meals of noodles she and her daughter consumed.
END QUOTE

Scarlett needs their work to succeed, needs the career boost that authoring papers with Joe will bring her. Getting her name out there will bring her both job security and the money she needs to take care of her young daughter. But when violence erupts at the very first session Veronica oversees, even Scarlett has to wonder if Joe’s methods have finally gone too far. And that’s even before murder strikes down a member of their tightly-knit group.

With the snowstorm of the century descending on their small North Carolina town, Police Detective Alana Larson has to figure out who might want members of Joe’s research team dead, even as the body count rises and troubling facts about each researcher come to the surface. All of them have something to hide, but would any of them kill to protect their secrets? They’d certainly lie, a specialty Joe trained them in for conducting their research. Will Detective Larson be able to separate fact from very well put-together fictions as she races to stop a diabolical killer from striking again?

The dark academia vibes are just right in This Is How We End Things, as six grad students and their charismatic advisor find themselves locked in a nightmare that’s at least partially of their own making. No one is who they seem, and only the plucky outsider detective can get to the bottom of their web of secrets and manipulation to save the lives of the innocent. While I figured out whodunnit fairly early on, the plot twists were revealed with aplomb, with the last third of the book especially a page-turning thrill ride. R J Jacobs’ background in psychology is put to terrific use here in his fourth and latest novel of suspense.

Was this review helpful?

4.5 overall!

I love a dark academia thriller and this definitely hit the mark! This book had me hooked from the start and I couldn’t stop reading it until I was finished. I loved all the multiple POV’s from all the characters so you can get inside their mind and makes you question literally everything. I was guessing the entire time on who the killer was and with everyone lying about something, it definitely had me on my toes trying to figure it out.

Overall, I highly recommend this thriller to anyone who loves dark academia and psychological thrillers. If you liked In My Dreams I Hold a Knife or If We Were Villains, I would recommend picking this one up!

Was this review helpful?

“𝑳𝒊𝒂𝒓𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏’𝒕 𝒃𝒐𝒓𝒏, 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒓𝒆 𝒎𝒂𝒅𝒆. 𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒑𝒆𝒐𝒑𝒍𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒕 𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒗𝒆 𝒃𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒕.”

R.J. Jacobs has become an autoread author for me; I know I can count on entertaining page turners that have a nuanced psychological perspective.

As a practicing psychologist, Jacobs’ writing is always fascinating because he offers an authentic viewpoint; with this book’s focus on a group of Psychology students, his genuine knowledge is at the forefront. This is a cross between an academic suspense novel, with amping tension, and a police procedural; in ways the first few chapters reminded me of a Murder, She Wrote episode where we meet a suspicious group of characters who distrust each other, with a murder that happens early on, and a sympathetic investigator. There are multiple perspectives within a chapter, but they are clearly labeled; I loved that you got to know a little bit about each grad student and the main detective. There is a great wink to Jacobs’ previous novel Always the First to Die, likening their situation to a cheesy Rick Plummer horror movie; it’s always SO much fun when an author creates a related world within standalone novels. There seemed to be some fun winks to a modern locked room type mystery too, with a small university town that is virtually emptied for winter break, as a giant snow storm looms. The well paced plotting, that had me hooked from the first page. Although I guessed the murderer by the 75% mark, I was racing to see it unfold. In a story about deception, I definitely felt deceived by a couple of the characters (the murderer included)!

This Is How We End Things is story of truth, ethics, duplicity, and trauma. It is another great addition to Jacobs’ body of work and would make an awesome movie. Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for my gifted copy!

Was this review helpful?

This Is How We End Things is a psychological thriller centering around a group of social psychologists on a small college campus. When one of their own is murdered, everyone is a suspect. Told from multiple POV against the backdrop of an approaching blizzard, this is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I really enjoyed the main characters of the books, and having everyone's perspectives. Jacobs nailed split POV by making sure each character had a distinct personality and voice when telling their side of things. As always with mysteries, it is fun to follow along and try to put together the pieces of the puzzle and see if you can guess correctly. That was doable here if one pays very close attention. This book is one that will stay with you after its finished as you analyze all the various angles. I also enjoyed the pacing of the story. It was fast, but with some natural lulls to allow events to unfold organically. I love how everything was laid out and fell together so beautifully at the end.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC. I am leaving this review voluntarily and all views expressed are my own.

Was this review helpful?

A prestigious graduate program at a school in small town North Carolina as a brutal winter storm bears down and the unthinkable happens, murder. This story centers around a graduate psychology program that is focused on running experiments to try to study the effects of deception. They set up some traumatizing experiments that they carry out on undergraduates when the experiment goes wrong and a subject becomes agitated. The team deals with the student and events escalate from there.
I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and the part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural that is this book. My only issue with it was that there are many characters for the type of story that it is, but this is a minor thing and if you can read it quickly, it will flow well.
I highly recommend.
#ThisIsHowWeEndThings #Netgalley #SourcebookLandmark

Was this review helpful?

This is How We End Things by RJ Jacobs is an excellent psychological thriller about a group of graduates students who are studying deception. After one student is discovered dead, the rest are tested on how well they can keep their secrets. Thank you netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this awesome book.

Was this review helpful?

In my opinion, this book fell short of my expectations. Although I typically enjoy dark academia novels, this one failed to captivate me. The characters lacked authenticity, which made it difficult for me to establish a connection or develop any fondness towards them. It was peculiar that numerous individuals enrolled in the same program had secrets. Additionally, the characters didn't undergo much development throughout the storyline. Moreover, I wasn't convinced by the romantic subplots. Despite being intrigued by the premise of the book, it didn't live up to my expectations, and I considered it a disappointment. Nonetheless, I have an affinity for the author's writing style.

Was this review helpful?

If mind games and deception intrigue you, then read this book!

Joe Lyons is a psychology professor at a prestigious university in North Carolina. He is conducting a study/research experiment involving misinformation and what propels people to be dishonest. His methods involve questionable ethics and the deception of his subjects.

He has a research team of graduate students helping him with this study. All have brilliant minds, yet all have their own secrets and hidden agendas. One of these students, Elizabeth Colton, is also his lover... When Elizabeth is found stabbed to death in his office, the lives of all of them are impacted.

A police detective named Alana Larson is tasked with the murder investigation. Alana is single and devoted to her work. Of all the characters, she was the only one who I liked. The research team were not particularly likeable (with the possible exception of Scarlett).

Another of the team is found murdered in the same way. Officer Larson's investigation ramps up... then a winter storm complicates her case.

I like a 'locked room' style mystery that has the characters isolated from the everyday world. This time the setting added greatly to the atmosphere. The deserted university had an air of kenopsia that gave the reader goosebumps. Each of the characters were experts at the art of deception so you didn't know who to believe. Every one of them had something in their past that they were hiding.

The novel exemplifies how dishonesty can lead to anger. After all... who enjoys being lied to? Subterfuge and manipulation can make your blood boil.

I was surprised by 'whodunit', and that was a plus for me.

The author's background expertise in the field of psychology is evident in his writing. "This Is How We End Things" is an engrossing read for fans of psychological thrillers.

Was this review helpful?