Two cold case crimes, two crime thrillers. One book uses a podcast to gather new information and witnesses, the other is an investigative journalist trying to solve a 20 year old crime for her television show. Both use retired law enforcement to help, but they are very different, yet both enjoyable and entertaining.

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The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan, Amy McFadden (Narrator)

Published December 28th 2021 by Mira Books, Harlequin Audio

4.5 Stars:

Lucas Vega is determined to figure out what happened with Candace Swain. He was dating her sister when she disappeared and the family was never the same again. She was murdered when he was a freshman at NAU and now is he doing his senior project as a podcast to find out what really happened to her. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and although the case isn’t closed, it is very, very cold. Lucas hopes the podcast will bring new witnesses and information to light to answer some of the questions such as: Where was she for the week before her body was found? Why were her lungs filled with chlorinated water when she was found in the lake? When former US Marshal Regan Merritt comes to the school for a guest lecture, Lucas and his advisor convince her to work with him to solve this cold case. Witnesses come forward anonymously from sorority sisters because they have been silenced and are afraid to speak out. What really happened to Candace Swaiin? When one of the callers ends up dead, Lucas and Regan know they are onto something.

The Sorority Murder

This is a cold case story, but different from others I have read. I enjoyed seeing Lucas and Regan work together. She had a lot of insight about investigations and evidence that she shared with Lucas and his audience, one reason some people came forward. Regan added maturity to the story to offset Lucas’ inexperience but exuberance. As the story progresses, pieces of evidence from the past are discredited, thus putting Regan, Lucas and others in danger. There was a tense feeling while reading this one. The podcast was a different twist to many crime thrillers and cold case stories I have read and even though it is being used more often, it adds a different feeling to the story. I was not expecting the murderer to be the person revealed, nor the motive to be what it was, which added to my enjoyment. The beginning is a bit slow to get going, but stick with it as once it picks up, it moves along at a great pace. Listening to the audiobook added to my enjoyment of the story. Narrator, Amy McFadden, does a great job with this story. Her pace, tone, expression and voices fit the story well. I have listened to other books she has narrated and always enjoy her performance. I recommend The Sorority Murder to those who enjoy a good crime thriller, especially cold cases. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.


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Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea, Viivienne Leheny (Narrator)

Published December 28th 2021 by Kensington Publishing Corporation, Recorded Books

4.5 Stars:

Avery Mason is the popular host of the television news show, American Events. When new technology is able to identify victims of the 911 bombing, she decides to talk to family members to see where the story will lead. Finding out that the remains belonged to Victoria Ford, a woman who had been charged in the death of her married lover when she was killed in the tragedy. Victoria’s sister, Emma, asks Avery to prove her innocent and plays Victoria’s final message to Avery, one she saved on her answering machine all these years. Avery realizes this could be ratings gold and begins her investigation. Working with Walt Jenkins, a retired FBI agent who was the detective overseeing the murder case all those years ago, they begin to uncover inconsistencies in the case and evidence.

Twenty Years Later

This was an interesting and consuming story. Adding 911 to the plot is tricky as it is still so fresh in so many minds, especially with the 20th anniversary just passing, but it is done well and not a huge part of the story. I liked the characters of both Avery and Walt. They are driven to find answers to this case, although for different reasons. I have recently read a few books about reopening and investigating cold cases using podcasts, but this was a bit different with the television show angle. The evidence uncovered seemed pretty blatant to me, so adding a coverup by an unscrupulous DA gave it credibility. I thought I knew where this story was going, but the twists threw me for a loop. A very satisfying crime thriller containing all the twists, revelations and clues that I have come to love in Charlie Donlea’s writing. I did a read/listen with this one, but I found I listened to more of it as the audio added a tense feeling. The audiobook was narrated by Vivienne Leheny. She is a narrator I have listened to before and I enjoy her performances. I liked the voices she used for the various characters and the male voices were well done. She used various tones and inflection for each that gave them some personality. Her expression added emotion to the story which added to my enjoyment. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating and opinions shared are my own.