Member Reviews

If you were into following the cults from the 60s and 70s. This is the book for you.

10 years ago Claire was the only survivor of a mass suicide in a cult started by Dom Bragg. Now with the start of a podcast, memories are being dug up.

This was an easy book to get into and read. I never felt bored as we went through the POVs in the past and present. We have Claire is who is an unreliable narrator as she doesn’t remember what happened 10 years ago. We also get POVs for a cult member and the leader himself.

The ending did fell slightly rushed and quickly wrapped up. I think I would have liked more build up and I felt like the “killer” wasn’t apart of the story until the end.

But the last chapter was pure gold.

Genre: Thriller
APK: Ebook
Pages: 279
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Series or Standalone: Stand-alone

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Thank you to Netgslley and Crooked Lane books for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

The only things this book honestly had going for it was the Cover (ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!) and the synopsis. Otherwise this book was a very big let down jn my opinion. It was very slow to really get into, the MC was not very relatable, and there were really no answers to many questions it just seemed to bounce a bit all over the place. It just seemed there wasn't a lot of research that was backed up into the story and it was almost a hollow tale.

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2.5 rounded down to 2 stars maybe? Idk how I felt about this. Most of it was pretty good, I liked seeing how the mystery unfolded, but the Dominic POV felt so unnecessary to me and the ending was…not it. Unlike some of the other reviews, I liked Laurel and Claire as characters, which is why the ending really didn’t work for me. And especially a certain line in the note…ew.

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the digital ARC; all opinions are my own.

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Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the copy of Only The Guilty Survive by Kate Robards. I loved the story of Claire, a former cult member, investigating the death of Laurel, her best friend in the cult. Her search for the truth is inspired by the arrival of a podcaster who wants to do his own investigation and include her in the story. I am a huge fan of cult and podcast stories so I’m sad I didn’t love this one more. We never learn much about the cult and the podcast only plays a minor role. All the POVs were in the first person and I couldn’t always tell the difference between Claire and Laurel’s narratives. The big reveal came out of nowhere, so if you love to figure out the mystery yourself it might be tough! 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

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The cover is GORGEOUS! I was immediately draw in just by that alone. The title is also intriguing as a reader. I loved how the title and the cover art (bird) are incorporated into the story itself.

I was hoping to get more out of Dominic’s POV - why he is the way he is, his backstory, what’s his belief system, what makes him different etc. I thought that Cecily’s character could’ve been utilized within the story better. It seemed like she was put in and just kicked back out.

The ending was strong. It was a great way to finish the story and the Epilogue was icing on the cake. Sometimes authors write Epilogues that are fluff and not necessary for the story wrap up but this one was great! I’m curious if this is where the story ends or if there will be another book.

Thank you Crooked Lane Books & Netgalley for an eARC!

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I had such high hopes for this one as I love cult stories and am still enjoying the true crime podcaster element of thrillers despite how common it now is. And the cover is so pretty! But this one just was not it for me. The only positive I can really say is that this is an easy read that is engaging enough to make you want to finish it. But I have so many frustrations with this book.

My biggest frustration is the laziness of the cult storyline. It doesn’t feel like the author really put in a lot of research to understand cults and what draws people to cults other than a very surface-level look at them. This led to a group of characters that felt very flat and not at all sympathetic. The cult leader was also pretty poorly depicted as kind of an amalgam of various cult leaders, and having him explain his own techniques in the latter half of the novel was just unbelievable to me (like leave something for the reader to glean on their own). The cult leader’s mental illness also felt very lazily portrayed and kind of insulting.

There isn’t a lot of character development in this one to differentiate the two main POVs - Laurel and Claire. And this largely made me not really care about either one of them. The mystery at the heart of this is what led to Laurel’s kidnapping and eventual murder which honestly I was quite interested in. Unfortunately, this was one of the most disappointing resolutions that I have ever read, and I am still grappling with why the author thought this would be satisfying to anyone invested in the story.

All in all I can’t really recommend this one to anyone as there are so many other fictional cult books out there that are so much better researched and written.

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Chilling.,
When podcaster Arlo Stone begins to investigate the truth behind a cult and a killing, things take a very dark turn on an already dark situation. As past and present collide, the spotlight is turned on a sole survivor. Harrowing and unexpected in equal measure with a well drawn and convincing cast of characters and an atmospheric sense of place. Chilling.

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Thank you so much Crooked Lane Books for the ARC. I was really excited about the premise, but unfortunately the execution was disappointing. A lot of repetition and why did her and the husband get a happy ending?? He was abusive???

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Claire is the sole survivor of a cult's mass suicide ten years prior, led by the still missing leader Dominic Bragg. We follow her present story where her life that she rebuilt for herself is threatened as a podcaster comes into town attempting to solve the decade old mystery of what really happened. Why was Claire the only survivor, was she responsible, and what happened to Lollie, another member that was murdered just weeks before the horrific event. Terrified of her memories coming back and finding out if she was, in fact, responsible for any of it, Claire starts her own personal investigation to get to the truth before the podcaster does.

Okay, so this is one of those books that I really enjoyed until about the last twenty or so pages, leaving me a little undecided on my review. Each character was pretty flawed and, for the most part, unlikable. Which actually worked for this particular story. It was well written and very detailed, leaving enough mystery and hints as we go to make it hard to put down. I always love books about cults, and this one puts us dead center into the middle of one, hearing first hand the horrors that go on. This had a lot of promise. Without spoilers, the ending just did not work for me and didn't exactly make sense, nor did the story really build up to the reveal. Still, give this one a try if you love cult reads and judge for yourself. I give this one three stars.

Thank you, Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books, for this ARC.

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Only The Guilty Survive follows Claire who is one of the last remaining survivors of a cult named The Flock after the rest committed mass suicide. She doesn’t remember much of what happened back in her time in the cult but when a podcaster arrives in town, determined to investigate and get to the bottom of what really happened, things begin to unravel.

I think this was such a fun premise to a book and it was one that I was truly excited to pick up and read. I also found it super interesting how the book flipped between two different timelines, the present day and back to when Claire was still in the cult.

I personally feel like the present-day part of the book’s timeline could’ve been more than what it was. I felt like it was missing something but like I said, this is possibly just a personal opinion.

Overall, this was a fun read and I would love to read more from this author in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with this ARC. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Read if you like: cults, missing memories, small towns, multiple POVs, multiple timelines

This book description has such promise. I love a cult mystery. The writing was good and many of the characters did not feel contrived, which is always important to me.

Unfortunately this one just did not work for me. I really disliked the protagonist, Claire, as well as all the other characters minus Lollie. The story was very slow and my mind kept wandering while reading it.

I feel like many parts of the book weren’t necessary and didn’t add anything to the plot or character development.

Sadly, I don’t think the ending made any sense and was disappointed by it. It felt so out of left field and completely random.

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When Claire was a teenager, she fell in with a cult known as The Flock. When they all committed mass suicide, leaving her as the only survivor, the town's suspicion fell squarely on Claire. Ten years later Claire still lives in her small town, still finds herself struggling with her loyalty to the cult leader Dom, and still has no idea what happened that day or why they left her behind. When a true crime podcaster focuses on the case, questions arise again about Claire's role in the deaths of the Flock and the earlier murder of Laurel, a Flock member and beauty pageant queen.

I had high hopes for this book, having recently read Listen for the Lie, another book where a podcaster helps uncover the truth of a small town murder. Unfortunately this book did not compare favorably. All of Claire's adult relationships (with the exception of a coworker/acquaintance) feel like they are still abusive, controlling relationships. She doesn't appear to have learned anything. Moreover, she doesn't seem to want anything better. I think I'm supposed to feel sympathetic towards Claire, but I found her completely unrelateable and unlikable. As far as the plot goes, there were times that leaps of logic were made that seemed wholly unbelievable, and then there were clues that should have been obvious that everyone overlooked. It was all over the place. The reveal of the Big Bad was underwhelming and out of left field. The part that was most frustrating was that, while just about everyone in this story had done something wrong, no one seemed to face any real consequences. Everyone just kept on doing their thing at the end. What changed? Nothing that I could see. If a character and I spend almost 300 pages together, I expect to see SOME kind of growth or lessons learned.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. I'm sorry that it wasn't a better one.

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Dominic Bragg lived on an old bird sanctuary at the expense of his parents who “…believe they’re funding a wayward sensitive son as he lives ‘off the grid’.” Dom studied the methods of mind controlling used by Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite and David Koresh, and believed he knew where they went wrong. His aim was to gather followers using his own way of controlling their minds, lead them on a path to enlightenment and then send them on their journey, while himself staying behind to do it all again.

Claire was one of Dom’s most devoted followers but after a series of shocking events she was now married, back living in a town where she was viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, and suffering from post traumatic stress. She had significant memory loss and wasn’t sure whether she wanted to get her memory back. When a man arrived in town with the purpose of dredging up the dark days of the cult’s demise for his podcast, Claire was forced into finally making that decision.

Only the Guilty Survive is a deep, dark, ultimately sad story. Cults are very strange phenomena which have been around for as long as people have been questioning the meaning of life and hoping for an after-life. Scarily, although Dom was aware that he was using and abusing his followers in insidious ways, he still believed he was purifying them in readiness for their perfect lives thereafter.

Creepy stuff but gripping reading. Kate Robards is a very good storyteller and has created some quite heart-breaking characters. In reality it would be hard to feel sorry for them, probably, but Dom was bending their wills so that they believed they were happy to live in quite deplorable conditions, much worse than anything they had left behind.

I recommend Only the Guilty Survive highly as a thoughtful study into human nature and, of course, as a compulsively readable book.

Published by Crooked Lane Books

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This book was a bit slow to start, but once it got my attention I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the first “big reveal”, which made the book lackluster overall. The final twist was a good surprise, but I would have preferred it go a bit more in depth so that I could better understand the main character’s frame of mind.

Overall, it was a unique premise to a book and I would give it 3.5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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This book wasn’t for me but with that said it wasn’t a bad book. I would definitely classify this a slow burn thriller. If you have a high interest in cults and don’t mind a slow burn this book is for you.

Thank you crooked lane books for this advanced copy.

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I just could not get into this one... I really enjoyed Willa Stannard, and was looking forward to Robards' latest as a result. It opened well, and I was intrigued by the blurb, but fairly quickly in I found my attention lagging. I struggled to find a connection to Claire, and while I enjoyed Lollie's character more, I found the back-and-forth uneven. I may be over the whole podcaster-blows-the-whole-thing-wide-open plot line, but I found Arlo irritating and abrasive and he didn't help my engagement with the story at all... All in all this one just wasn't a good fit for me.

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I don't really read a lot of true crime, as I have known three murderers (all in prison now) and I just find it hits a little too close. But I love books about cults so I scooped this one up as soon as I could. It just did not work for me. Probably it was the whole "too close" issue I have. I just did not feel this book in my soul. I can't wait to see what the author writes next.

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Ugh. When I found out this was a mystery/thriller about a cult, I was all in, excited about the story. Boy did this book disappoint in almost every facet.

The first 70% of the book was so. slow. and so incredibly hard to read through. Nothing happened, and what events they did take you through didn't make sense. There was no rhyme or reason as to why the cult existed. At one point in the book someone asked straight what it was all about some very vague answer of transcendencey was given with no background. There was no belief system to the cult. And also, I've never heard of a cult leader looking up other cult leaders to figure out how to run a cult. It just felt bizarre and hastily thrown together without thinking it through.

There was also the problem of the main character, who to be honest was quite unlikable, finding connections wider than the grand canyon. No one in their right mind would jump from one of those clues to where she landed. The backstory of what happened and why made sense in the end, but the way she figured it out was not plausible even a little bit, which made me not like the book even more.

There are many other much better researched and written books out there.

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Thank you #NetGalley and #CrookedLaneBooks for the opportunity to read this ARC!

The primary figure ten years after escaping a cult in which some members committed suicide, Claire has no desire to revisit her suppressed past. That is, until a podcaster arrives in town and decides she has to know what happened to her. A little absurd, but it worked; we needed a catalyst to help us figure out what had happened.
It was excellent to have chapters where many individuals from the past and present explained the mystery as it developed. However, halfway through the novel, Claire begins to SENSE that things are CONNECTED rather than following hints and breadcrumbs and piecing things together rationally. It just begins to seem like a bit hurried conclusion and loses a lot of its appeal.


A intriguing novel with a dismal conclusion. Still, it's a fun tale.

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I had a really hard time getting into this book. The premise sounded SO cool, but I found it confusing at many different points. It felt repetitive as well, kind of just picking from a million other cult themed novels. I also really did not like the main character, either. It was hard to empathize with her because she was unlikable. I wish I would have liked it more!

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