Title: The Sorority Murder
Author: Allison Brennan
Publication: December 28, 2021
SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)
Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found after two weeks, but the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the medical examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.
Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle. He just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. Then he encourages listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer Regan Merritt, a former US marshal, to come on and share her expertise.
New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life, a much darker picture than Lucas imagined—and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own secret. The pressure is on to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast—before the killer silences him forever.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**
I don’t know how I have never read an Allison Brennan book (that I can remember) before when I am such a hard core mystery/thriller lover, but now I regret not having read them sooner. The Sorority Murder sounded like something I was going to enjoy based on the synopsis, but I greatly underestimated how much I would enjoy it.
The book follows Lucas Vega as he does his senior year capstone project on a 3 year old cold case right at his very university. He is lucky enough to get the help of Regan, ex U.S. Marshal, and they go on a whirlwind trip of investigating, interviewing, and solving this insane mystery.
I love this book. It hooked me early on and I literally couldn’t put it down. I was reading when I shouldn’t have been reading and I was reading while dropping my book on my face at night because I just wanted to see what would happen next. The story was not rushed, nor was it too long. The details were just enough to leave me with the ability to create possibilities in my head on what was happening and who may be guilty. I LOVE Regan. She is like my spirit animal. Lucas was a bit annoying, but in a little brother way. He did things and you just wanted to shake him and scream, “What are you thinking?” I also really like Regan’s dad. He was protective, but stood back and let Regan do her own thing. Reminds me of my own dad. The story also flowed extremely well. There was a lot of information thrown at us, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It was like watching a puzzle come together; piece by piece. I also felt like the way the law enforcement portion was handled seemed very well researched. A lot of books do things and you automatically think the real police would never do that. Not this book. I definitely think she did her due diligence to make sure it was accurate, as well as a great story.
I have no complaints about this book. It was literal thriller perfection. Gripping from the beginning with a fantastic story and setting. The characters were relatable and well developed. And the mystery kept you turning pages almost faster than you can read. I cannot wait to read all of Brennan’s books to see if they are just as good as this one. A must read this winter!
Q&A with Author Allison Brennan (Provided by HTP Books)
Q: Please give a one sentence pitch for The Sorority Murder.
A: Amateur college podcaster sets out to solve a three-year-old campus murder.
Q: Obvious question, but were you part of sorority?
A: Nope! In fact, I’m a college drop-out …
Q: Why do you think thrillers are so popular?
A: Thrillers are, at their core, stories about justice. A good thriller is also a story about human nature – the good and the bad. People are complex, and no one is wholly good or wholly bad, and thrillers often explore those nuances – but with a focus on how the story is told. Pacing is super important for a thriller. I’ve written both thrillers and mysteries – The Sorority Murder is structured more like a mystery, with a crime that needs to be solved, a slow burn as clues and evidence and hints of menace draw in the reader as the case develops and there is more at stake.
But in the end, thrillers and mysteries must satisfy the reader by giving them answers to the story questions in a fun, interesting, suspenseful way.
Q: Where do you get your ideas? Of course, from your imagination, but do you read, see or hear something that clicks?
A: Ideas come from everywhere … but for me, it’s mostly a combination of different ideas that blend to create a story. When the different ideas – coming from my imagination, the news, a story I read, a comment someone makes, a photograph that draws me in – hit me in just the right way, I get my own story idea. It’s never just one thing.
For The Sorority Murder, for example, I had wanted to write a story about a US Marshal, because it’s not often done. But I already have a series with FBI agents, so I thought – what about a former US Marshal? Why did she leave service? Who is she? So that was in the back of my mind, thinking about Regan Merritt (her name popped into my head, so I was really thinking about her character a lot.) Then, one of my daughter’s was talking about a podcast she was listening to. It had nothing to do with crime, but she sent me a link to an article about podcasts, and in it was a link to a true crime podcast. I love true crime – I always have. So I listened to a couple of episodes, all about unsolved crimes, and I started thinking, what if I had a podcast about an unsolved crime? Would that be interesting? I shelved it for awhile because I couldn’t think about how to make a podcast into a written thriller that would also be interesting and suspenseful. Then one of my daughters was looking at colleges. NAU was one of them – and I love Flagstaff, it’s an interesting town with a lot of history. Then something clicked and I thought, what if a student had a podcast? How would that work … and what case would he investigate? I knew it would have to be a cold case otherwise the police would still be investigating. And, because he’s an amateur and a student, Regan popped into mind – what if she went home to Flagstaff to lick her wounds about a tragedy, and she helped my student with his podcast? And the story was born. I had no idea who the killer was, who the suspects were, the motivation, anything. All I knew was that my podcaster Lucas had a secret and I couldn’t wait to find out what it was.
Q: Are you a plotter or panster?
A: I prefer the term “organic writer.” I do not plot. I hate plotting, writing outlines, anything that might tell me how the story resolves itself. I want to discover the end with my characters.
Q: Do you have any tips for would-be writers?
A: Read a lot, write a lot. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and then learn from them. Be bold. Write because you love it.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A: When my kids were younger, I loved spending time with them – going to their games, concerts, taking them to the movies, watching television. Now that my kids are almost grown – and three are out of the house! – I really miss that. I read a lot (of course!) … not as much as I would like. I probably read a book a week (not including for research) when in the past (before I was published) I used to read at least 3 books a week. I’ve recently dived into audio books, which I listen to while walking every morning. I also love baseball (go Giants!) and hiking in the mountains (nothing too steep, but if the trail is flat I can go for miles!) and I’m always on the hunt for good Mexican food.
Q: What books are you reading now?
A: I just finished Nora Robert’s THE OBSESSION on audiobook. It’s one of her older romantic suspense titles and I loved it. She is the master of the craft. Next up is JD Robb’s FORGOTTEN IN DEATH, which I’ve had on my shelf for a few months but between deadlines and Christmas, I haven’t had time to pick it up. I love the series, and will most likely sit down and read it in one or two sittings.
Q: Can you read other author’s books when you are writing yourself?
A: Yes – I write every day, so if I didn’t read other authors, I would never read! I try to read every day, but I’m a binge reader – I like to read a good book in 2-3 sittings, tops. I’ll admit, before I was published, I finished every book I started. Now? I have far too many books I want to read, so if it doesn’t grab me in a couple of chapters, I’m willing to put it down and start something new.
Q: What is your favorite season and why?
A: Fall. I love the change of colors and cool, breezy days. I also love rain, though we don’t get enough of it in Arizona!