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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Review - The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields

Review - The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

The Last Girl to Die is one of the most shocking, surprising, just stunning crime novels I've read. This one just throws out all of the rule books, and does its own thing and I absolutely love it for that.

Our main character, Sadie, is a Canadian private detective brought to Mull to look for a missing teenage girl, Adriana. There's immediately a lot to differentiate it from the bulk of the crime fiction I see. Sadie isn't a cop, and actually her relationship with the local police force is, from the start, not ideal and only gets worse. She's a private investigator instead, one with a lot of experience in tracking down teenagers. I really liked the fact that her Canadian origin gives her the kind of outdoor experience and wilderness survival skills that translate well to the Scottish Isles. Although she's seen as an outsider and treated differently because she's "not one of us", there's none of the fish-out-of-water urban detective stuck in the middle of nowhere tropes. Sadie is more than comfortable out in the middle of nowhere, and that shows. She's a relatively small woman who doesn't trade on her looks or seductive powers. And she's not wrestling any inner demons like alcoholism. She really just wants to get this job done and get back to her sister and the baby she's expecting. She's a really interesting and quite refreshing main character.

The setting is fantastic. I've been to Mull, and while it was nowhere near this murderous when I was there, it was fun to recognise a lot of the settings. Much is made of the isolated nature of the island. Specialists have to be helicoptered in from Glasgow, forensics have to be sent to the mainland. For the authorities on the island, including both the police and the priest, this is their own domain with no interference from anyone. Obviously Sadie turning up and interfering doesn't play well with those in power, and these power struggles feel all too real and scary for the isolation and relative power of those in charge there. This is something I couldn't see happening so effectively in a big city setting, and it's great to see how well the island is used in this part of the story.

I absolutely loved all of the pagan folklore in this novel. It is used so, so well, linking historic assertions of witchcraft with modern feminist ideals. Those core principles of empowerment and independence shine through both in flashbacks and in the women standing up to the patriarchy seeking to impose order by restricting the freedoms of the island's women. One of the main messages of this novel could be "To prevent men attacking and abusing women, don't tell the women what they can and can't do. Tell the men." This was clear and powerfully put across in multiple different ways. 

It's an incredibly creepy novel too, walking that fine line between crime and horror. The ritualistic nature of the killings and the staging of the scenes was both disturbing and moving, and filled me with empathy for the victims. There was no glorification of their deaths, they were bloody and horrible despite all of the staging, or maybe because of it. 

And the ending! Oh wow. I'll avoid any spoilers, but it left me simply stunned. So bold and powerful.

A fantastic novel, full of twists and turns with some important things to say.


The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields is out now, published by Avon Books.

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


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