I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the following review is my honest opinion. This book may not be suitable for younger audiences. Reader discretion is advised.
Cristina is no stranger to abuse and drugs. But now, sober and divorced, she moves to a new town with her daughter, hoping distance will give them space to start a new life. With the divorce settlement, she can afford to buy a cheap house. However, the low price tag does come with a catch: the house was home to a guy who murdered his stepdaughter. But they’re gone now, right? So what could go wrong?
As it turns out, a lot. Cristina meets a psycho neighbour during her first day in town. She discovers the town, which once seemed like paradise, has a very shady underbelly in the form of a druggie cult. And to top it all off, her ex instigates a custody battle.
It’s not all bad, though. Cristina does meet some great people, and a great guy. But that’s when the dreams start. Dreams of the little girl who used to live in the house, the girl who was found broken and lifeless. The dreams warn Cristina not to trust him. She has to find out why, quickly. Because maybe the murders aren’t finished yet. And maybe her own daughter’s life is at stake.
The Quills: 10/10
All the family love made it difficult to watch her grandmother’s Ford Taurus disappear down the driveway. [Cristina’s] eyes started to burn. But before any tears could come, she lit a cigarette and put on her tough face. […]
In that moment, a month seemed like a year. And the perfect house ten minutes from the beach again felt like it was about a million miles from anything that mattered.
-Jake Parent, Cristina
Cristina was pitched to me as a psychological suspense/thriller, but I think it fits the suspense category better than the thriller one. This novel is told in third person from Cristina’s point of view (I mean, she is the titular character) and you can feel every emotion she feels. The pacing is rather slow for a thriller but perfect for a suspense. And boy, is there lots of suspense.
The suspense is there because we care about the characters. Or at least I do, and I’m pretty sure you would. The characters have tons of personality. Their personalities are built by what they do and what they say. They’re round, complex, lovable, and alive. It’s not only the main character who has personality, either. Even the side characters are amazingly fun and complex. Cristina’s daughter sometimes seems to break character by saying things far too wise for her age, but then again, kids do that sometimes.
The town is wonderfully constructed and real. The beach is alive with laughter and fun, and the scary places are terrifying. I can’t say much about this, other than it is such a good read.
There are quite a few flashbacks, which generally slow the story down, but in this case, it didn’t. By the time the flashbacks came around, I was so in love with the characters that I really cared and wanted to know what happened to them.
There does happen to be mature content, so unfortunately, some readers may need to shy away from this one.
The Roses: 9/10
Sorry guys, no perfect 10s for this one. I really loved this book, but there were a few bits that weren’t super excellent.
When I was 1/4 through the book, I had the oddest feeling I knew who the murderer was. I was right. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read too many mysteries, or because the hints were obvious. It wasn’t bad necessarily that I knew who the bad guy was; it just made the ending have less oomph because I wasn’t surprised by the big reveal at all. It was still a lovely ending anyway and a great conclusion to the book.
I also found it a bit weird how Cristina starts off the book by characterising herself sexually. As the book goes along, nearly every guy she meets ends up with their eyes glued to her boobs. As this repeated itself over and over, I felt it was almost comical. I’ve certainly never seen a guy lose track of where he was going because he was checking out a hot girl. (Then again, I’ve seen guys walk into lamp posts because they were playing Pokemon Go). I feel like it’s to emphasise how hot she is, coupled with how stupid guys are, but it seemed rather overdone to me.
But those are just minor blips in the book. It’s really the characters that won me over. Typical me, my favourite character is Danny, a side character. I still love Cristina, of course, and that’s what got me engaged in the story. I loved her, so I cared about what happened to her. And some of the things that happened to her were frankly terrifying. The book had me on the edge of my seat, which means it succeeded in what it set out to do.
Conclusion: Filled with lovable characters and terrifying twists, this novel will have you on the edge of your seat, hoping your favourite characters survive the night.