BOOK REVIEW: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley

22914448-_sx120_Title & Author:  The Dead Key, D. M. Pulley
Publication Date & Publisher:  March 1, 2015, Thomas & Mercer
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller, Suspense
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.

My review:


First of all, I think I may have found a new favorite mystery/suspense author!

I bought The Dead Key at the West Virginia Writers summer conference last month, after attending a session by the author, D.M. Pulley. During the class, she referenced The Dead Key a few times and the more she talked about it the more I wanted to read it. (To be honest, it was distracting…I found myself trying to pay attention, but just wanted to go read the book she kept talking about.)

If you’ve read any of my other book reviews, then you know that I’m often drawn into a book by its characters. I really am a sucker for a character-driven story and will often enjoy a book even if the writing or story isn’t that great, if I’m in love with the people in it.

What you probably haven’t realized yet (or maybe you have if you’ve been paying close attention), is that I hardly ever read mysteries anymore. I hate being let down by guessing every single plot twist before it happens, figuring out who did what when and why way before the author tells me… basically, I hate feeling smarter than the hero or heroine. The point of a good mystery is to keep you wondering what the heck is going on and/or going to happen until the very end (Where I expect for everything to be wrapped up in a pretty little bow for me).

I’ve been let down too often over the last couple years… I gave up on mystery authors all together.

Until now…

Not only did I love the characters in The Dead Key, but I had to force myself to put the book down… I desperately needed to know what was going to happen next!

The story goes back and forth between a young girl’s experiences at the First Bank of Cleveland in 1978 and a female engineer, Iris, in 1998.

Iris is trying to do a renovation survey on the bank, which has been frozen in time for the last 20 years. It’s so strange, that she begins to snoop around more and more…and get herself into more and more trouble as she digs into the past.

One part of the past she digs up on the bank is that of Beatrice, a young secretary that had worked at the bank. It’s obvious that Beatrice has a lot of secrets and while Iris herself doesn’t discover all of them, D. M. Pulley lets you experience it yourself as you go through Beatrice’s sad and terrifying journey with her.

I love a good serious story with a lot of laughs and Iris provided plenty of both! She’s nothing like what you’d expect an engineer to be. She drinks too much, smokes too much, and makes bad decision after hilariously bad decision after another. At one point, she starts to believe she may be imagining things:

She had to stop drinking and get some sleep. It was getting hard to separate her memories from her delusions.

On page 292, I realized that I still had no idea what supporting characters to trust and which were dangerous for Beatrice and Iris…and I was shocked by who was friend and who was foe at the end!

There is so much I want to tell you, but almost anything more would be a spoiler so if you’ve already read The Dead Key, let me know what you thought! I love talking about great books!

If you don’t have an interest in reading it, why? If you’re planning on adding it to your TBR stack, was my review helpful?

Thanks for reading my review and happy reading!




All That’s Left of Me by Janis Thomas – BOOK REVIEW

Title & Author:  All That’s Left of Me, Janis Thomas36533723
Publication Date & Publisher:  June 12, 2018, Lake Union Publishing
Genre:  General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
My rating:  3.0

Summary (from Goodreads):

I wish…

It starts with a simple wish, and Emma Davies hardly notices when it comes true. She’s too preoccupied with a life she isn’t happy in—the spark in her marriage has fizzled, her career is headed nowhere and her boss is a misogynist. Her teenage daughter has grown distant, and her heart breaks daily for her teenage son with cerebral palsy. But soon Emma discovers her wishes are coming true, and she realizes that she has been given the power to change her life. Either that, or she’s going insane.

Emma begins testing her newfound gift, making calculated wishes and learning one important rule—once granted, they cannot be undone. Over time, she grows bolder as she builds up to the one wish she both fears and desperately longs to make. But when Emma finally gets everything she’s asked for, will it be worth the price?

My review:

There’s so much in All of That’s Left of Me that works and sucks you in to a world where wishes coming true is possible, that it’s hard to believe it was such a disappointing read for me.  (Maybe my hopes were set just a little too high???)

The story itself was compelling and it definitely keeps you interested enough to keep reading!

The supporting characters were great!

Emma’s children are incredibly lovable, funny and realistic teenagers.  This is something I haven’t found in adult novels lately (was starting to think most adult novelists have never met an actual teenager).  As the mother of two teenagers, it was refreshing to get “real” teens in this read.

I felt for Emma’s husband throughout the novel.  She wasn’t happy in her marriage, but it didn’t seem to be through any real fault of his own.  Emma seems to still be pining away for her college boyfriend and I often wondered if he knew this on some level.  I was definitely rooting for him and found myself thinking “What the heck is wrong with you, Emma?  You’ve got a great man right there.”  But that’s the thing…

The whole book can be boiled down to Emma’s dissatisfaction with her life.  She isn’t thankful for a single piece of it.  Her children, her husband, her job, her clothes…she wants it all to be “better.” Emma herself sums it up nicely:

…I had love. I had a husband, two children, each of them flawed, but no more so than I. Less flawed than I. But instead of accepting them for the gifts they were, instead of letting them in and allowing them to love me, I saw them as challenges to endure, hardships to survive, encumbrances that dragged me under. I wanted a life with no burdens, no conflicts, no struggles…

Unfortunately, not everything seemed to make sense to me.

For instance, supposedly all of Emma’s wishes come true, but one of her first wishes is to be transported to another dimension without cerebral palsy.  There was no “rule” to say this wish couldn’t happen, and would’ve actually been in line with some of her other wishes.  While this wasn’t a huge killer for me, it definitely didn’t help.

Her son has cerebral palsy and she translates for him all throughout the book.  I feel that this could have been handled a different way.  As it’s written, it continuously pulled me out of the story even though I pretty much skipped the “Josh speak” for most of the novel.

Because of Emma’s constant complaining and her insistence on continuing to make wishes, even after it’s obvious every wish results in something negative, it was hard to ever make an emotional connection with her.  This was maybe my number one issue with this book. You spend the entire novel in someone’s head that’s not all that likable.

As I said above, the story itself is great and it’s worth the read, it just wasn’t as great as I had expected it to be. I’d love to hear from you… Are you reading All That’s Left of Me? What do you think?

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.