Cover Image: Knife River

Knife River

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Two estranged sisters reunite in their small hometown after their long-missing mother’s bones are discovered. If you want fast-paced twists, skip this one. It’s a slow burn. But burn it does—smoke will get in your eyes. Fifteen years ago, when Jess was thirteen, her mom left for a walk and vanished. Jess’s fiercely smart big sister had to give up on her dreams of college to care for her sibling, until Jess skipped town and drifted. Now, as they wait for the cops to finally do something, the sisters are forced to get to know each other - and face their small conservative town's homophobic reality. While the mystery of who killed their mom smolders like toxic smoke in the background, this is ultimately an examination of the ripple effects of trauma. The writing is gorgeous and the characters so real I didn’t just get to know them but became them.

It’s only April but I’m calling KNIFE RIVER one of my favorite books of 2024. IT'S SO GOOD!

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Knife River tells the story of two sisters searching for closure 15 years after the sudden disappearance of their mother. Jess, the younger sister, left their tiny upstate New York town 10 years earlier but is called back by her older sister when their mother’s bones are discovered.
The book explores the relationship between the two sisters and how they were each profoundly and uniquely damaged by their mother’s death. There is not a tremendous amount of plot but this is a truly character driven story. A late plot reveal is very surprising but still rings true and is believable.
Knife River is a beautiful debut novel. I look forward to the next thing Justine Champine writes.
Thank you to The Dial Press and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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This was an interesting novel with well developed characters and a unique plot I enjoyed the writing style and the attention to detail but I found some parts to be slow paced.
Many thanks to Random House and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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I am so thankful to The Dial Press, Justine Champine, and PRHAudio for the #Free Audiobook before this slow burn family drama hits shelves on May 28, 2024.

Knife River is a town that holds onto secrets that never stay hidden. Knife River is the home of two sisters who are still grieving the loss of their mother after she went missing fifteen years ago. When readers are introduced to the storyline, their mother’s remains are found and then from then on we are transported into a claustrophobic retelling of how Liz and Jess process their grief as they continue to look for answers into what happened to their mother and how they find themselves out of the hopeless rut they are rooted to.

I liked this one, but it was less thriller and more family drama with a taste of slow burn that I didn’t have a hankering for. If this one wasn’t told in such a discombobulated manner and was a bit faster paced, I envision myself liking it more, but this one just wasn’t for me.

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Our protagonist, Jess, tells us the story of her mother’s disappearance when she was a child as she’s taking us back to the sad little town she grew up in. We meet her sister Liz, who’s been frozen in time since the day her mother left. The home, the decor, the dishes, everything is exactly as it was when the sisters’ hearts were broken. They knew their mother loved them. She was beautiful, free spirited, and strong willed. And they know in their hearts that she’s dead.
They’re brought back together when their mother’s bones are found. It reignites the burning desire in Jess to understand who did this, who committed this heinous crime. Jess and Liz have such different personalities, though. They literally circle each other like prey. Liz wants to keep her head down. Jess wants to scream to the mountains. As these two coexist in their childhood home, so many burned bridges are rebuilt. Yes, a crime needs to be solved, but the story of Jess and Liz is told in bare bones, suffer through it, raw words. This is an excellent emotional read with depth and color.
Thanks so much to Random House Publishing Group, Dial Press, for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is May 28, 2024.

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Earlier this spring I was invited to read Justine Champine’s first novel, “Knife River” and participate in a Book Club Discussion with its publisher Dial Press. “Knife River,” is a mystery novel with a queer protagonist that unfolds as a slow burn, drenched in a deeply atmospheric setting. The consensus among early readers and the publisher was a mix of admiration for its strong narrative and poignant exploration of complex relationships, intertwined with doubt and the scars of memory.

Set in the rural landscape of western New York, the town of Knife River emerges as a character in its own right, casting a shadow over the lives of the protagonists, Liz and Jess. The sisters, each grappling with their version of their mother's legacy, weave a tapestry of doubt and intrigue that challenges not only the reader's perception but also their own recollections.

The storyline, centered on a cold case that refuses to thaw, mirrors the slow-paced life in Knife River, adding layers to the character study and the dynamics between the sisters. Jess, the younger sibling, carries the weight of guilt and a sense of displacement, while Liz immerses herself in the quest for closure, tethered to the past by fear and unresolved questions.

The book's strength lies in its ability to transport readers to a specific time and place, evoking a sense of nostalgia tinged with unease. The author's knack for creating a vivid, palpable atmosphere resonated with readers from different corners of the USA and Canada, sparking conversations about the universal theme of belonging and the haunting fear that lurks within us all.

While some readers expressed discomfort at certain points, particularly concerning the homophobia Jess faced when returning to her small town, others appreciated the nuanced portrayal of LGBTQ+ themes and the quest for a 'happy gay ending' amidst the somber backdrop of a cold case.

Overall, "Knife River" is more than a mystery novel; it's a journey into the intricacies of human relationships, the scars left by unresolved trauma, and the resilience required to confront one's past. Justine Champine's narrative prowess shines through, making this a recommended read for fans of atmospheric mysteries and character-driven stories that linger long after the final page.

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This book is a gripping tale about how grief affects many people in different ways. Sisters Jess and Liz are reunited years after their mother's disappearance in their hometown when their mother's remains are found. This book was such a page-turner! Very moving book. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing, and The Dial Press for a copy of this book for an honest review.

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Knife River is the name of a small town where the main characters, Jess and Liz, grew up. Their mother disappeared when they were young and now, years later, her bones have been found. Liz still lives in Knife River and Jess returns to stay with her while the police work on solving the mystery of who killed their mother. Jess and Liz become impatient and decide to work on solving things themselves.

The setting of Knife River lends to a feeling of tension and underlying fear as there are few people living there and he reader learns that it's difficult to know who to trust.

This is a difficult book to categorize, but I would say it would be best described as a combination of slow burn mystery and women's general fiction. The book is written with a kind of literary quality that makes the reader take their time to absorb the material. I enjoyed the quirkiness of the characters and how each sister handled the trauma so differently. This was not a fast read, but an enjoyable one.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #RandomHousePublishing for an eARC of #KnifeRiver by #JustineChampine in exchange for honest feedback.
-4 stars

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Knife River by Justine Champine is set up as a thriller/mystery, but I found it more of a coming-of-age story.

Natalie Fairchild left her house for a walk and never returned. Now, 15 years later, her remains have been found and her daughters must come together to find out what happened to their mother.

That, itself, would have been a fantastic story. However, Knife River is more about Jess coming into her sexuality and herself. The homophobia is rampant in Knife River and I feel like that set the atmosphere for the entire book. It was just.....dark and gritty.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review.

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This book sounded promising and had an interesting plot. However, as I began reading, the book was so dark and heavy and depressing. I didn't expect a book about a mother's disappearance and murder to be uplifting, but there are skillful ways to convey the seriousness without bringing the entire book down. This book is so much more than a murder mystery - it's a story of relationships - between a mother and daughter, between two sisters, and between two people in a relationship. Maybe because of the mother's disappearance, all of the relationships felt dark to me.

Not my cup of tea, unfortunately.

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I will say that I enjoyed the beginning and the end of this book, but I have to say that the middle parts just left me feeling lost. The timeline was disorganized, and the plot lines felt very disjointed. The pacing felt off to me, and I just couldn’t really connect with the characters. I’m sorry to say this one was just not for me. I’m glad I read it because the ending was well done.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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I so tried to get into this story but it just didn't hold my attention. I'm sure it's a wonderful novel but just not for me. It felt stilted and uninteresting. I'm sure others will enjoy it.

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An emotionally charged, tumultuous and tragic read. A story that brings grief, relationships, and struggles of sexual identity to life with a delicate weaving of words. While it's a crime thriller it is also an intimate look into the characters lives. Full of mystery, secrets, two sisters coming to terms with loss and learning to start again. A good read for those who love crime dramas and mysteries.

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I found this book to very slow!! The characters don’t really have much life to them. It’s more of how two sisters dealt with the grief of loosing their mother. It was not a crime thriller to me. It was more of a crime family drama novel. It definitely was not a book that I would recommend unless you like a slow burn, unsolved murder drama. Than maybe this book is more for you
Thank you NetGalley and this is just my opinion

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The description of this one sounded interesting, but I have to admit that it wasn’t very interesting. Jess at times was a very annoying character, and I really did not connect with her. I liked Liz a bit better, but she had her frustrating moments, too.

I think this book did relate well to female relationships, but I wanted more from it. I would be interested in reading another book from Champine though!

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I would like to mention that did not finish the book but it isn’t because of anything the author did wrong. I feel as though i was not the target audience of this story. Just because that is the reason, it is not to say that this isn’t worth checking out because it is! As a debut novel, Justine Champine deserves her flowers because if I was convinced to pick up this book and read what I could, it may lead others to read it too and hopefully finish. I realize that I won’t ever know the end of the story but maybe in the future I can pick it up again and see if I can finish it. Do read this book if you’re a lover of thrillers!!

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A compelling story of family, home, and the bond between sisters that asks: Who do you believe when you can't even trust yourself?

I almost missed my Sunday Spotlight 😵‍💫

This Sunday goes out to the beautiful, Justine Champine.

Somehow I ended up getting my greedy little paws on Knife River and I devoured every last bit of this soon to be bestseller

Champine, not only knows how to spin a murderous tale of deceit but she also includes quite a bit of twists.

Now, I know all of you are incredibly anxious to get your hands on Knife River and all I can do is promise you, it is about to blow your mind and exceed expectations .

Through years of spending hours upon hours with my nose buried in books I have been pickier with my ratings . Knife River is an EASY 5 star

I’ve become a huge fan of Justine Champine, with just having read Knife River. This is the beautiful start to our “book-ship” of sorts.

ready for the wild part? This is a debut!!! ♥️


When Jess was thirteen, her mother went for a walk and never returned. Jess and her older sister, Liz, never found out what happened. Instead, they did what they hoped their mother had done: survive. As soon as she was old enough, Jess fled their small town of Knife River, wandering from girlfriend to girlfriend like a ghost in her own life, aimless in her attempts to outrun grief and confusion. But one morning, fifteen years after their mother’s disappearance, she gets the call she’s been bracing for: Her mother’s remains have been found.

Jess returns to find Knife River—and her sister—frozen in time. The town is as claustrophobic and rundown as ever. Liz still lives in their childhood home and has become obsessed with unsolved missing persons cases. Jess plans to stay only until they get some answers, but their mother’s bones, exposed to the elements for so long, just leave them with more questions. As Jess gets caught up in the case and falls back into an entanglement with her high school girlfriend, her understanding of the past, of Liz, of their mother, and of herself become more complicated—and the list of theories more ominous.

Knife River is a tense, intimate, and heartrending portrayal of how deeply and imperfectly women love one another: in romantic relationships, in friendships, and especially as sisters.

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Knife River comes out May 28, 2024.

Knife River takes place in the small town where Jess and Liz grows up. Jess left town when she was 18 and never came back until Liz called to tell her remains were found and that they were likely belonged to their mother who disappeared 15 years ago.
Once Jess returns home the story follows the sisters as they work through their pasts while trying to figure out what happened to their mother.

I really enjoyed reading Knife River. Knife River had me sitting on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who has killed Jess’s and Liz’s mom. I liked how the sisters were able reconcile after years of being estranged. And I appreciate that Justine touched on how trauma affects people differently.

I still don’t know how I feel about the ending. It just sort of happened and that was it. And I’m not sure I like how Jess didn’t tell Liz about what she learned about their mother’s death especially Liz life was so stagnant due to waiting for their mother to come back.

Overall, I recommend Knife River. If you like murder mysteries I think you’ll enjoy Knife River.

Thanks to Netgalley and The Dial Press for a copy of Knife River in exchange of an honest review.

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I was able to read this as an ARC from Random House and Netgalley. I really did enjoy the premise of this novel and the characters. This story focused on two sisters Jess and Liz who seemed to be just surviving after their mother's disappearance. They do not have answers as to what happened. Parts of this novel were fast paced and other parts were very drawn out and slow. I did have sympathy for both sisters, and I am glad that they came together to deal with their situation. I was frustrated at the ending of the story though.

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A slow burn, atmospheric story of two sisters, who for more than a decade take different paths to cope with their mother's disappearance but ultimately come together to try to solve the case of what happened when they were 13 and 19 years old. Jess, the younger sister, escapes the small town of Knife River but not her fears and the self-loathing that came with deserting her older sister to face their shared demons alone. Liz stayed, trying to solve the case and get closure, living every day in fear of the suspected killer Nick Haines. Her lonely, boring lifestyle as a bank teller gave her solace while she remained in their childhood home, stoking a lingering hope that she would be there to welcome her mother if she ever returned.

A murder mystery at its surface, this is really a layered story about sisterhood, imperfect women, friendships, love and how shifting memories can shape and reshape the legacy of those we think we know and love. The beautiful, and often haunting writing makes the reader feel like they are living every day with Liz and Jess in their has-been, factory town that has been virtually frozen in time.

With Knife River, the reader is taken on a slow, redemptive journey with Liz and Jess, one that is both powerful and immersive until the very last page. Thanks to Net Galley, and The Dial Press for the advanced copy in exchange for my review.

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