Member Reviews

This fictionalized version of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, renamed to Nina and Simon, focuses on the fallout to the young couple’s parents. This is a rare true crime thriller that doesn’t focus on who the murderer is – Simon is clearly a villain through and through – but instead on grief, how far parents will go to protect their children, and the power of public opinion. Disturbing and fast-paced entertainment for those who like Alex Finlay or Lisa Unger.

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I don’t recall reading anything by Dervla McTiernan, but I will probably check out some of her other books after spending much of the past couple of days engrossed in her novel What Happened to Nina? – which grabbed me from the start. Thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley, I received a copy in exchange for this honest review.

My husband and I have somewhat of a debate about books with multiple POVs and/or non-linear plots. He pretty much hates both, and I am less bothered by either than I am by books with a gazillion VERY SHORT chapters. This particular story has multiple viewpoints, all of which are characters who are central to the plot: Nina and her boyfriend Simon, her parents Andy and Leanne, his wealthy parents Rory and Jamie, and Detective Wright.

I admit I was less than 2% into the book when a HUGE red flag started waving: Nina and her boyfriend, together as friends since childhood and lovers since their mid-teens, have gone away to different colleges, and he gets VERY intense, wanting to know her every move, even to the point of expecting her to FaceTime him, then mute her phone and take it with her to classes, or prop the phone up next to her so he can – I don’t know, spy on her? Monitor her every move? It just creeped me out.

The couple goes to his family’s “cabin” in Stowe, Vermont, for a weekend getaway to go hiking, climbing, and just hanging out, but only Simon returns from the trip. Nina’s parents get busy pushing the police for hep and answers, while Simon’s parents hire PR people and expensive attorneys to manage the media campaign that they initiate to protect their son. The media frenzy that ensues brings a small army of “armchair investigators” to their small town, and soon conspiracy theories and accusations are flying. Reminiscent of the hoopla around the disappearance of Gabby Petito, the book provides a look at what happens to real people who get caught up in a real-life true crime drama. The characters are well developed, and I particuarly liked Jamie, likely because I related to her view that “Security and comfort are very, very attractive when you’ve never had either.”

TBH, I read this a couple of weeks ago, and I had already forgotten many of the details, but the feeling I had reading it remains vivid in my mind. As someone who tends to consume a lot of “crime entertainment,” I can easily get lost in stories in both the true crime and the mystery/thriller genres, and I tend to appreciate what I think of as “faction” – novels based on real people/events. This one shouts Gabby Petito from the get-go, and readers will likely find themselves thinking “GET AWAY FROM HIM – NOW!!!” Maybe it’s not literature, but it sure is entertainment. Four stars.

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Dervla McTiernan has another winner. This is a very plot driven book and the action keeps this moving. Fast paced, suspenseful and feels like a completely real situation, What Happened to Nina could be ripped from the headlines. The inclusion of social media added to the realism. A very enjoyable read.

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Wow! This book was incredible! It had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. It is told from several points of view and I loved seeing the story from them all. It was perfect for the story. The characters felt real and you could feel their emotions. There were several twists and turns that I did not see coming. This is the first book I have read from Dervla McTiernan, but I look forward to reading more from her.

Publication date: March 26 2024


Many thanks to Netgalley and William Morrow for the digital arc.

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Nina and Simon are seemingly a happy couple. They decide to vacation at his family's cabin in Vermont. However, he returns without Nina and a vague explanation. Both sets of parents are stunned. Simon's parents use their wealth and power to protect him. Nina's parents, less affluent or powerful are struggling to find where their daughter might be. The two families become antagonistic in a short time. Social media interferes with the case. Arm chair detectives try to solve the mystery. Trolls harass Nina's family. The police seem less than skilled during the investigation. Who will solve the mystery of Nina's disappearance? This book will keep you turning the pages until its stunning twist of an ending. Another winner of a novel from Dervla McTiernan you don't want to miss.

Thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow Books for my chance to read the novel prior to publication.

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I am of two minds about this book.

Here’s what I liked a lot:

This book reads really really fast. It is interesting from the beginning and hold up that interest all the way through. The pacing is good here.

I also really like the premise. I followed the Gabby Petito story closely and I felt like there were a lot of interesting pieces of that case. And this book handles those pieces really well. Because we get so many different points of view, we get to see what’s going on not just with the police but with Nina‘s family and also her boyfriend Simon‘s family. Those different points of view bring you into the story in a really interesting way.

Also, like the Gabby Petito case, we get a look into how amateur sleuths and the Internet come to play in any missing person‘s case that happens at this point. And, here, we see that it can both be incredibly helpful but also incredibly distracting. It can take up a lot of resources that don’t end up panning out.

I also was interested the whole time and how closely the author was going to hew to the actual real life story of what happened to Gabby.

But, I have a problem with the book and that is namely that it is not very well written. This book is all plot. The writing is clumsy and clunky a lot of the time. The different points of view also go back-and-forth between in first and third person and I found that to be really clunky. It kept taking me out of the story. Well there was some real emotion happening that you could feel on the part of the parents, the kludgy writing just kept making me want to roll my eyes instead of give my full heart.

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This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart


Review copy was received from NetGalley, Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

4.5 hearts

What Happened to Nina? was an absorbing read which had me emotionally connected from the start. Nina and Simon go to his parent's vacation home near Stowe to do hiking and climbing. They have dated since high school and now are in college. They are both active, experienced outdoorspeople. Simon comes home early without Nina.

There are many points of view here, even a brief prologue of Nina. They include Leanne (Nina's mother), Jamie (Simon's mother), Matthew (the state police detective), Andy (Nina's father), Rory (Simon's father), Grace (Nina's sister). These thoughts and perspectives give us plenty of information and emotions with the hunt for Nina.

Simon and his family are wealthy but not very likable. They aren't very helpful to Nina's family and in fact, start with social media stories to muddy the water to protect Simon. But it puts more pressure and attention on Nina's family.

The detective really was trying to do a good job. He has trouble with Simon's family not cooperating, and because they are wealthy, others protect them a bit also. But gradually he is able to get information and warrants to provide more evidence.

There are some infuriating moments and shocking twists. The emotional ride has quite a range. I loved reading and highly recommend this one!

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Sigh. What Happened To Nina?

Honestly, this story is a bit of a mess. All of the characters are unlikeable, and really you should be able to like the parents of a missing woman- but you just don’t. The dad is too passive, the mom is a crazy person that’s insinuated to have deep, dark secrets that never really come to the surface.

And that in and of itself is the problem with What Happened To Nina. There’s a lot of holes opened up that are never closed off, and really in the end- we’re still left with What Happened To Nina?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Readers will want to put aside a few hours when starting Australian crime writer Dervla McTiernan’s engrossing, taunt new release. The details of this mystery take a back seat to the power of social media and the longstanding effects it can have on true crime cases and those close to the tragedy.

One morning, Nina and Simon, high school sweethearts who come from very different upbringings, decide to go rock climbing. When Simon returns home and Nina doesn’t, all signs point to the boyfriend. And it doesn’t help that his alibi is a little less-than-believable. However, Simon’s parents would do anything to protect their son, hiring a PR firm to flood the internet with fake news about Nina’s parents and stories of Nina and Simon’s “perfect couplehood.” While “What Happened to Nina?” isn’t what one would expect to find in a typical thriller, McTiernan’s character-driven story building and exceptional emotional execution leave readers with more to think about than a conventional novel in the genre.

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DAMN that ending though!
This is not just your basic thriller - this is based on the Gabby Petito story from a few years ago, so the “mystery” of what happened to Nina is laid out pretty early in the book. the book focuses more on the parents of Nina and her boyfriend who is accused of killing her, and the depths both groups of parents will go to protect their kids. McTiernan writes with such conviction for the parents, and each one has a few real gut-wrenching, raw scenes that make you really feel for these characters and the grief and stress the case is putting them through.
if you liked books like <i>Playing Nice </i> or <i>Defending Jacob</i> this one is a great and emotional addition.

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This was another excellent book from Dervla McTiernan. I loved all the different viewpoints - Nina's parents, Andy and Leanne, Simon's parents, Rory and Jamie and Detective Wright. The behavior of both sets of parents was very realistic. It was very suspenseful and had a great ending. Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC.

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Nina and Simon are young adults and appear to have a solid relationship. But after they break-up and Nina disappears, questions start to arise about how perfect a couple they actually were.

What Happens to Nina? takes us through Nina's disappearance, the search for her, and the way different people from her life perceive and respond to the circumstances. The story is told from multiple people's perspectives, mainly Nina and Simon's parents and the lead detective investigating the case.

The author did a good job of keeping the feeling of suspense and tension throughout the story, as well as maintaining hope that Nina will be found. It held my attention and kept me turning the pages all the way through.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy. When Nina goes missing you are taken into the families as they cope with the fear and uncertainty. The story is told from the perspective of each of Nina’s parents and the parents of Simon, Nina’s boyfriend and the last person known to have seen her. You also hear from the lead detective, Matthew Wright. It makes you feel just what it could be like for families dealing with the a situation like this and what they are willing to do to protect each other and get to the truth. The suspense is heightened by the constant presence of the press, the trolling on the internet, and the feeling that nothing the police do can be done fast enough. What happened to Nina is a really good read.

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Thank you @williammorrowbooks and @netgalley for this advance copy. True crime enthusiasts - this one is for you! This is a fictional account of a missing girl, but told from the POVs of her parents, her boyfriend’s parents, and the detective. The story unfolds like a true crime documentary and we see how far these parents are willing to go in the name of their children. McTiernan also highlights how social media and online conspiracy theories impact the investigation and the people involved. I really enjoyed this one!

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I was so excited to see this book available to request as I am a huge fan of the author's Cormac Reilly series. This book was such a fun read and the pacing kept you going throughout. Simon and Nina are high school sweethearts who stay together long distance once they go to college. Everything appears to be great, though they appear to come from very different upbringings, until one weekend Simon and Nina go to his family's cabin in Stowe for a small getaway and only Simon returns leaving those around them to ask, what happened to Nina? The families want to know what happens but find themselves at odds with everything going on in the media.

It definitely felt like something we've possibly seen happen in real life and kept the thriller mood going for me. This was such a fun and fast read and will definitely recommend it to others who enjoy thrillers and crime novels!

Thank you NetGalley and William Marrow books for the ARC!

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I will read more by this author. I liked her concise writing style, and I probably would have enjoyed this STORY more if the plot had not seemed to be literally ‘ripped from the headlines’—not only with the facts of the crime but also the involvement of social media. Even so, once I started reading, it was hard to put the book down. Yes, the mystery of what happened to Nina was the catalyst, but a big impact was how easily manipulative social media is in swaying the court of public opinion. Thanks, NetGalley, for the free e-ARC. My opinion is just that—my own opinion!

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Simon was the perfect boyfriend. He dated Nina through high school and now that they are in college he returns on weekends to see her. Lately he has become hard to please and domineering and Nina has the bruises to prove it. On a quick vacation to his family’s cabin she had enough and decided to break up. That was the last that anyone saw of Nina. Simon tells everyone that they broke up and he left her at the cabin, but Nina’s parents and her sister Grace have been unable to reach her. Nina’s mother is sure that Simon knows something and calls in the police. As she becomes more desperate, Simon’s parents take steps to protect him. His father is an influential businessman. Hiring a PR firm, they take to social media to call attention to Nina’s family, spreading lies and suggesting that Nina’s parents, Leanne and Gary, may be to blame. The inn that Leanne runs and Gary’s landscaping business are now receiving bad reviews and contracts are being cancelled. The stress of not knowing Nina’s fate and the reactions of the community takes its’ toll on Leanne, leading to desperate acts.

Dervla McTiernan’s story is tense and emotional. Leanne becomes almost catatonic as she deals with the stress. Simon’s mother is equally desperate to protect her son from harm. Even the realization that Simon is lying and changing his story as th investigation progresses does not change her love for her son. It is ultimately her actions to protect him, however, that lead to the revelation of Nina’s fate. McTiernan’s use of social media as both an asset to the search and a tool to spread confusion and lies was disturbing and shows just how powerful its influence is. This was definitely a story to keep you reading late into the night. I would like to thank NetGalley and William Morrow for providing this book for my review.

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Thank you, NetGalley and William Morrow books. I wanted to read this book as I read something about it being a fictionalized account of the Gabby Petito case. Simon and Nina were together since high school. Simon is rich and Nina is not. Everyone says they have a good relationship. That go hiking and climbing together. They go to different colleges, Simon to Northwestern and Nina stayed in Vermont to go to UVM but they stayed together. Everything is fine, until one weekend they go away together to Simon’s family’s cabin in Stowe and only Simon returns. What happened to Nina? Did she run away? Did she leave Simon? Did Simon leave Nina at the cabin as he says he did? The families are at odds as they want to find out what really happened and are at odds as everything is in the media. Fast paced thriller ripped straight from the headlines.

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This was a great book. I loved every paragraph, every sentence and every word of this masterpiece! I read it in 12 hours, which is a lot for me to do! It had everything and more laid out in the novel! I sure hope There is more to come from this author! I am totally hooked!

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What Happened to Nina? is a well-written, easy to read thriller. It's not exactly a whodunnit, because you basically find out what happened at the beginning of the story, but it's still a good ride, stressful due to all the gaslighting and tricks played. Nina and Simon are a high school couple still together in college, and you learn in the prologue that Simon is abusing Nina. Then she disappears and her family can't find her. The police get involved, and Simon's wealthy parents start a PR campaign to slam Nina's parents, ruining their businesses and reputation, putting their younger daughter at risk, and not helping the police investigation. It's all wrapped up a little too easily, but it's an entertaining read.

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