ARC Review: For Your Own Good // a decent and twisty thriller

Hello, friends. Welcome back to the blog! Today, I’m going to be reviewing For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing.

I was lucky to get an ARC copy of this book and I was really excited to see how Downing’s latest book would turn out. I read her first book, My Lovely Wife and enjoyed it, so I had some hopes for this one. And Downing definitely did not disappoint.

Just for some disclaimers: All spoilers will be in dropdowns, so you may skip them if you like. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review, however all opinions and thoughts are my own.

With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Cover and synopsis are from Goodreads.

Adult, Mystery/Thriller, ARC Review

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing Cover

For Your Own Good
by Samantha Downing

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

trigger warnings: murder, death, violence, poisoning

Out of all the characters, I really only liked Zach. He’s literally the only likeable character, and even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m in the minority with liking him.

Why did I like him? He’s one of two people (the other being Courtney) who weren’t entirely messed up and he was kind of relate-able in a sense. Sure, Zach was kind of looking for trouble when he was trying to gather dirt on Teddy, and he did do wrong by bribing a guard, but it was so much easier to still like him and root for him because his intentions weren’t evil. He was just a kid who messed up but learned from the entire situation.

That’s what really made me like him. By the end of the book, I felt like he’d stepped out of his privileged perfect shell and kind of become a better person as a result of everything that happened.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

Though the ending where Zach is like he’ll return to Belmont because someone has to help the kids gave me too many creepy Teddy vibes for comfort, so I really hope that wasn’t supposed to be some kind of foreshadowing that he might end up becoming as obsessed as Teddy. I really hope that wasn’t what it meant; he’s a nice kid.

I also sympathized with Courtney even if I didn’t really come to like her since she wasn’t actively there for a good portion of the story. As messed up as this sounds, I was actually kind of glad that Teddy was working to get her out of the pickle she was in.

This is what this book did to me. It made me actually glad that one person was saved at the expense of another. My morality is at stake y’all.

Since we’re already on the subject, let’s talk about Teddy and his morality.

One thing that’s been a constant between Downing’s first novel and this one, is the fact that the story is told primarily from the bad guy’s point of view. That makes you see them in a different kind of light. With Teddy, I didn’t 100% hate him, because I could see where he was coming from, no matter how messed up his thinking was. It made him more human in a sense.

Like, it’s easy to condemn a serial killer in a novel, when you’re reading it from the victim’s or the detective’s point of view. They’re just the bad evil person who’s going around and killing people for some twisted reason. And that makes it so easy to hate them and want them to be caught and punished for it.

But Downing flips that narrative around and we get to see the story from his point of view, which changes the perspective that you get.

Teddy was one hundred percent in the wrong. There is no doubt about that. What he did was horrible and terrible, no matter how much he tried to justify it. But the fact that I saw how it all unfolded from his point of view made it no longer so black and white.

This is not to say that I didn’t hate him or that I hoped he got away with it. On the contrary, I wanted justice to be properly served and it would have been so satisfying to have his righteous holier-than-everyone attitude smashed to dust. I’m just saying that Downing made his character more complex than villains in mysteries usually are.

I feel like anyone who reads this is going to be extremely concerned for me, lol, but I don’t know how else to explain this in a way that doesn’t make me sound morally insane.

The only other notable characters were Frank and Fallon. Frank was okay, he was very suspicious at the start of the book and it was interesting to see what happened with him. Though his role in the ending was not my favorite, but I’ll talk about that more in depth later.

Fallon on the other hand was a very interesting complication. I didn’t like her exactly, but she helped reveal and explain a lot of things, so that was helpful. I can’t really say much else without spoiling stuff.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

Even though I didn’t like her, I was a little sad that she died. It was such a pointless death, and I wish she could have tried to move on with her life instead of being stuck on Teddy. Especially when she did do something terrible (blackmailing the previous headmaster, though he was in the wrong too for gambling illegally seriously, there’s like no one that wasn’t guilty of something) and kind of deserved that recommendation letter. She was definitely not innocent, but still, I was disappointed that she died.

Also, Zach has a death wish, I wanted to smack him so hard when he decided to confront Teddy at Fallon’s funeral. Like dude, you think he’s a serial killer, yet you also think it’s a great idea to tell him that you’re on to him? Do you not want to live?? He should have just gone to the FBI and hoped to evade Teddy’s radar until he was arrested. Ugh, he gave me a fright, I was so sure Teddy would kill him before everything was resolved.

In general, I just wanted to add that the rest of the characters weren’t so engaging. Besides Zach, Fallon, and Teddy, everyone else was like really bland and annoying and super unlikable, so I couldn’t even feel sorry for any of them. They were kind of there just to fulfill a role in the story. It didn’t make me dislike the book though because the plot made up for it, but it did bother me and I would have liked it better if the rest of the characters weren’t so flat.

This was phenomenal plot-wise. I loved the twists and turns, and how messed up the whole thing was. You already know who’s behind everything but Downing still managed to pack in a bunch of unexpected twists that made this a lot less straightforward than I thought it would be.

There were also a couple of questions that added another layer of mystery, such as what happened to Teddy’s wife, that also helped to influence the plot. It makes you wonder if there is a more sinister force at play and whether everything is truly as it seems. And being the seasoned thriller/mystery reader that I am, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how exactly all those unanswered questions could potentially throw a wrench into Teddy’s plans or surprisingly change the end of the story.

However, while the plot and twists were great, the ending felt a little bit disappointing. I explain more about that below, but in general, I just wish that justice had been served in a different manner.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers about the ending

I really really wish that Frank hadn’t intervened and killed Teddy. It would have been so much more satisfying if Teddy had been arrested, because I think that would make him feel more miserable than the relatively quick death he had.

Which is kind of an…evil wish? I’m sorry, but him just dying made it too easy and simple. If he’d gone to jail, he’d have years upon years to think about his “failure”. Unless it’s a state with a death penalty I guess; I don’t remember which state it took place in (if it was mentioned). But even then, the public trial and media circus would have still made him suffer more than his death did.

SPOILERS for MY LOVELY WIFE BELOW. Skip to white portion of the page or close this dropdown if you don’t want to read them.



A similar ending happened in Downing’s other novel, My Lovely Wife, so I guess it’s possibly her style? And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a much better ending than him getting away with it completely, but it didn’t work for me in My Lovely Wife, and it sadly didn’t work for me here either.

This was a fun thriller with lots of twists that kept me in suspense for a good majority of the book. Not all the characters were the most interesting, but I did like the ones that stood out, and I love that Downing told the story from the killer’s perspective, rather than from the detective/private investigator’s perspective. It made the story a lot more interesting.

I think Downing is going to become one of my auto-read authors when it comes to thrillers because I’ve liked two of her books so far, and I’m really excited to try any others that she writes.

I’d highly recommend that you give her books a try, especially this one, if you want a suspenseful thriller from the killer’s point of view.

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite thriller? Have you read any of Downing’s books before?
  • Do you think I’m morally questionable for understanding Teddy’s motivations?
  • Do you prefer thrillers from the detective or the killer’s point of view?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle – Review

Hello and welcome! Today I’m going to be reviewing Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle. This was a good thriller, but I was also disappointed since it was pretty obvious who the bad guy was.

Book: Three Days Missing

Author: Kimberly Belle

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.

Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

*Thriller. This is every parent’s worst nightmare: getting a visit from the cops in the middle of the night telling you that your child is missing. And that’s what happens to Kat Jenkins. I liked how the plot was instantly tense from the beginning, even if it was a little slow, and created a lot of anticipation as the clock ticked and Ethan still remained missing. It was also interesting to see how Stef and her family fit into the story. It made me want to continue reading, to find out what happens, even though I was pretty sure I knew the identity of the kidnapper.

*Characters. I really felt so much for Kat, and I actually grew to like Stef, even though at first she annoyed me. Kat’s fear and emotions were so real and I understood her struggle and frustration with everyone. Stef’s role in the matter, combined with her anxiety and struggle to connect with her son, were also very interesting and heartfelt to read. I also really liked Lucas and his loyalty and love for Kat and Ethan. He truly is Kat’s brother in ever way but blood.

*The reveal of the kidnapper. It was really disappointing because the moment the character was introduced earlier in the book, I knew it was them. So the reveal was pretty underwhelming. But, it was still interesting to know why Ethan was taken and how everything had gone so horribly wrong.

*Ethan. I actually liked Ethan and his relationship with his mom, but it kind of annoyed me that he had such a high IQ. Lately, it seems like most thrillers that involves a kid, is about a kid who is “different” or really “smart” or unlike other kids. It’s starting to become cliche at this point, and I don’t see why Ethan couldn’t be a regular kid. And even if he had a high IQ, it didn’t need to be mentioned so many times.

I liked this, I would recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it! The characters were interesting, the plot build-up was great, and even though I knew who the kidnapper was, I was still a little thrilled by the ending.

One sentence summary: An interesting thriller with great characters and an underwhelming reveal.

Overall, 4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Chat with me

Have you read Three Days Missing? What did you think? Have you read any other books by Kimberly Belle? Do you find it annoying when the main kid in the story has a high IQ or is “unlike other kids”? Chat with me in the comments below!

The Victim of the System by Steve Hadden – Review

Welcome back friends! I hope you are having a great day! Today, I’m going to be reviewing The Victim of the System by Steve Hadden. This was an okay thriller, but I didn’t really like the characters, and I found some the twists unbelievable. I was given a free copy of this book by Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Book: The Victim of the System

Author: Steve Hadden

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Summary: Twenty-two years ago, Ike Rossi’s life was shattered when his parents were murdered. He surrendered his football scholarship and returned home to find their killer and raise his sister. Now, the crime of a local ten-year-old genius, Jack Cole, threatens to unearth old wounds.

When Ike meets Jack inside the Pittsburgh courthouse, he doesn’t see a murderer but instead a boy who’s been victimized by a system that’s left them both without justice. Despite knowing the case will resurrect the painful demons of his parents’ unsolved murders, Ike agrees to clear Jack’s name. The court of public opinion and the district attorney have an airtight case. Worse, taking Jack’s side thrusts Ike into the crosshairs of the most powerful family in Pittsburgh, the Falzones.

Now, with only days before the trial, Ike confronts the Falzones’ crumbling empire to find the shocking evidence that could save Jack. At the same time, he races to decipher a series of cryptic clues from Jack’s dead father that could hold the key to his son’s freedom. But each step closer to the truth draws them further into danger, and as three fractured families collide, Ike is forced to choose between saving Jack—and saving himself.

This was a disappointing book. I liked the thriller aspect and the mystery of what Nick Falzone was trying to hide, and how the pacing picked up towards the end. However, I felt that some of the characters were unrealistic, the really minor romance aspect was predictable, and some of the twists at the end were really unbelievable.

Ike Rossi is a former, yet still famous, quarterback who is currently a private investigator. He also has a secret career as a formidable boxer. I was a bit skeptical of Ike and never really warmed to him. I liked his sister and Mac a little bit, but as the story continued, they became less involved in the story. I felt like the fact that Ike is famous, and apparently one of the best PIs (so much so that he frightens the Falzones), and also a tough unbeatable boxer was unnecessary. It seemed kind of convenient for him to be this super hero guy who never backs down and always does what is right. When he meets Jack, he has an internal battle because he wants to help him, but already has a prior contract. But he ends up doing the right and honorable thing and helps Jack out.

Jack was okay, I didn’t really care about him, and I was a little annoyed by the fact that he is “special” and very smart. His aunt, Lauren, really annoyed me. She is demanding, rude, and I absolutely loathed her when she yelled at Ike for refusing to take the job, and when he left later on. She had no right to do so, especially when he had a prior commitment, and it annoyed me that her self-centered (or well, it’s more for Jack) attitude, and little speech about “real commitment” was one of the reasons why Ike took the case. I really hated her character. The tiny romance aspect between Ike and Lauren did not help matters at all. It could have been eliminated, and the story would have been fine.

The Falzones were interesting, and I kind of liked Shannon. The dynamics between the two halves of the family and the increasing tension added to the suspense and intrigue.

The ending was okay, however, some of the twists thrown in did not make sense at all and they weren’t fully explained. The ending was going really great until those twists happened.

In the end, this was a meh thriller with disappointing characters, and some unbelievable twists.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

You can read a much more positive review here before deciding! Have you read The Victim of the System? What did you think? What was the last thriller that you read? Chat with me in the comments below!

Mini Reviews: Wherever She Goes and Curious Minds

Hello my dear friends! I hope you are having a fantastic start to your week. Today, I will be doing two mini reviews, since I am behind and I’m trying to catch up. The books that I’ll be reviewing today are Wherever She Goes by Kelley Armstrong and Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich. I was really disappointed by the former, while I liked the latter. Let’s get started!

2 stars | Goodreads

The mystery was really meh. I enjoyed Bree’s family drama more than the mystery, and that was honestly the only reason why I finished the book. The ending was so underwhelming, and I think the author was trying too hard. It felt flat, and I wanted to roll my eyes a lot. In the end, I gave it two stars because the family drama was interesting.

One sentence summary: An interesting family drama with a meh mystery.

2.5 Stars | Goodreads

This was a cute and easy read and I liked it. Emerson can be annoying, but he’s still very funny. I thought Riley was cute, especially when she tried to back out of Emerson’s plans every single time, but still managed to find herself in the middle of everything. The ending was good, had a bit of suspense, and some humor. The mystery was really meh, and pretty far-fetched for me, but it didn’t annoy me too much. This was like the book that you read, just for the sake of reading, and not really for the plot or characters. In the end, I gave this 2.5 stars rounded up to three.

One sentence summary: An easy and humorous mystery, with okay characters.

That’s it for today!! Have you guys read Curious Minds or Wherever She Goes? What did you think? Did you find Emerson funny, but also exasperating? Was Bree’s family drama more interesting to you than the mystery? Chat with me in the comments below!

Against Their Will by Carolyn Courtney Lauman – Review

Hi guys and welcome to another book review!! Today’s review is of Against Their Will by Carolyn Courtney Lauman. This is my first book review with Reedsy Discovery and I’m super excited!! Against Their Will is a captivating thriller with amazing writing, compelling characters, and an intriguing plot.

Book: Against Their Will

Author: Carolyn Courtney Lauman

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: A holiday drive to Florida ends tragically for Izzy and Maria when their car breaks down outside a rural North Carolina bar. Kidnapped by two brutally sadistic men, the sisters are held captive in a remote fishing cabin. As the men become increasingly unhinged, their savagery intensifies, propelling the young women into a desperate fight for their lives.

Decades and distance have healed their physical injuries, but Izzy and Maria’s once-close relationship has failed to survive in the aftermath of their nightmare. Estranged and living on opposite coasts, they rarely see or speak to each other.

Now, one of the kidnappers has been released from prison, vowing to exact his revenge on Izzy and Maria. As a hurricane rages around them, the sisters endeavor to repair their bond, confronting many hard truths in the process. Can they reconcile in time to defeat the demons from their past?

Many thanks to Reedsy Discovery for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Quote: I’m not sure if I’m just punishing myself by pushing away everything I used to love.

Izzy and Maria are best friends as well as sisters who are travelling from their home in Pennsylvania for a holiday with friends in Florida. On the way, their car breaks down, sending the girls to a dodgy bar in hopes of finding a mechanic to help them. What happens though, destroys their once close bond, and leaves the girls fighting for their lives.

I really liked Maria. She’s a fighter, someone determined to survive no matter what’s thrown at her. I didn’t really connect to Izzy, but the story doesn’t follow her life so we don’t really get to know her. However, both sisters fiercely love one another and are determined to survive the horror that they’ve been through. I also understood why they drifted apart, and was really hoping that they reconciled in the end.

Quote: I am angry with everyone and no one at the same time.

Billy and Frank were horrible monsters, and I was shocked by their crimes. However, they were real people, with terrible pasts that may have driven them to do what they did to Maria and Izzy. That doesn’t justify what they did at all, but it makes them real, and not just characters who are evil just for the sake of the story.

One thing that could be changed, maybe, was seeing their interactions with Frank’s sister or maybe some of their friends. The only reason Frank’s sister had any role in the story was to testify, but it would have been interesting to see how Billy and Frank acted with her or their friends when they were sober. Their past was interesting, but it would help make them more believable characters if we had an idea of what they were like on a normal day.

I loved how thrilling the story was. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished Part I, and even then, I was still wondering and very excited to know what happened next. I’m a big fan of criminal trials, and the legal aspect of the story made me love it even more. The second half was just as good as the first, and I really enjoyed it. The ending was great; sad, but still very good, and I liked how Izzy and Maria were strong despite everything. The writing was also amazing!

In the end, this was an incredible fast-paced debut, with great characters, and a captivating plot.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: sexual assault, abuse, kidnapping, and explicit content

I’m so excited to have finally reviewed a book with Reedsy! I definitely recommend you give this book a try, and I really hope you enjoy it!