In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead (book review)
GENRE: Adult Mystery/Thriller
LENGTH: 332 pages
Ten years after the unsolved murder of one of her friends, Jessica Miller returns to her old college stomping grounds for a reunion. Once there she and her other surviving friends are cornered by the dead girl's brother who is determined to get justice.
There are nine important characters within the story. Jessica is the protagonist who I immediately got a strong feeling for. She is a perfectionist and overachiever who seeks the spotlight. Her friend group includes the golden prince of campus (and her ex-boyfriend) Mint and the resident bad boy (and her ex-lover) Coop. There's also her best friend, the sweet, dependable Caro and the mean girl Courtney, as well as football champion Frankie. Finally, there is Heather, the murdered girl, Jack, her boyfriend and the main suspect in her murder, and Heather's vengeful brother Eric. Admittedly at the start I had some trouble keeping track of who was who outside of Jessica, especially among the boys, and had to refer to the notes I was taking. It's not that there's too many characters per se. They each have time for the spotlight to be cast on them and their interwoven relationships never feel shallow or undeveloped. I just recommend keeping a little chart of who is who until you get far enough along in the novel that you no longer need it.
Of course, because this is a mystery/thriller, everyone is a suspect and nothing is as it seems on the surface. Every character has at least one dark, damning secret they're hiding. While this is adult and not YA I do want to compare the characters to those from the book People Like Us by Dana Mele. Both feature characters who are morally grey but super fun to follow. Morally grey characters in general are my favorite type due to how complex and interesting they are. In my opinion they're best suited in mysteries and thrillers like this one.
There is a love triangle in this novel between Jessica, Mint, and Coop. It's been some time since I read a book with a love triangle which, for a time, were done to death. This one was refreshing, however, because both relationships were believable. Jessica had more chemistry with Coop but given her personality and motivations her relationship with Mint made sense. My main problem with love triangles is there's always a clear choice the character at the center of it is going to make and no reason for them to end up with the other leg of it. This one was probably the most balanced I've read.
The novel is told in dual timelines; Jessica's college years and then present day, 10 years after graduation. It is primarily from the first person perspective of Jessica. Jessica is an unreliable narrator which, I believe, always mixes perfectly with mysteries and thrillers as they add to the sense of uncertainty and can act as effective red herrings.
Interspersed throughout the novel are third person chapters from other characters' perspectives. This is reminiscent of another book I read recently, Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan (though that's really their only similarity). I am always torn on this sort of style. On the one hand these third person chapters offer what is essential in good writing; showing not telling. It makes scenes more impactful and enjoyable to read. On the other hand, though, I find these sudden, unexpected shifts can take the reader out of the novel/be distracting.
This novel featured plenty of dramatics, secret reveals, and high jinks. I can almost guarantee that you will never be bored while reading it. The ending was somewhat open but satisfying and had a nice callback to earlier events.
FINAL THOUGHTS This novel is by no means the most original mystery you're ever going to read. It's not reinventing the wheel. It doesn't necessarily need to, though. I had a fun time reading this twisty novel. I was never quite sure what was going to be revealed next/who was the true culprit and that is what kept me reading.
FINAL RATING: 4⭐️