by Rachel Bowdler
Publisher: Independently Published
Publication Date: July 25, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Romance
I received an advance review copy of this book from BookSprout. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Though they are polar opposites in many ways, best friends Bryce and Thea are both attracted to all things horror, including true crime — and to prove it, they co-host weekly podcast episodes of Perfect Crimes together with their producer, Mikey, in the dusty basement of Stone Grange’s local bookstore. When a string of murders suddenly begins to plague their small, unassuming town and the police find themselves at a loss, it seems that there’s nobody more qualified to help solve the mystery.
However, it’s soon realized that Bryce and Thea are already more entangled than they could have ever expected, because the murders follow a pattern. Their pattern. With every case discussed in the podcast comes a new imitation of the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death, and Bryce and Thea find themselves trapped in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the killer, as their friendship — and feelings that they’ve always left hidden until now — is pushed to its breaking point.
When the evidence begins to pile up, conflicting suspicions of the killer’s identity begin to rise, and friends and acquaintances of the duo become victims; things seem to get closer to them with each death. Can they survive the dark shadow following them around town, and remain the strong-willed, closely connected partners in crime they’ve always been? Or will their obsession with murder prove their undoing in a final, emotional showdown as the killer is revealed?
With a suspenseful ‘whodunnit’ storyline and a heartwarming tale of friends to lovers and found family, Partners in Crime is a cozy read for fans of romance and murder mysteries alike.
I got drawn in by the adorable cover (ok but seriously why don’t they have EYES?) and then when I found out it was a friends-to-lovers? sapphic murder mystery novella? SOLD.
Bryce and Thea have been best friends for years. They co-host a mildly popular weekly true crime podcast, though the rest of their lives is, well, mediocre at best. They’re both sort of treading water, with the podcast – and their friendship – being the bright spot in their lives. Bryce works six days a week at an arcade in order to support herself and her teen sister, Liv. Thea works at her mom’s book store. When a murder occurs, Thea’s convinced they can help solve it. After all, Thea and Bryce have probably covered more cases than the cops in the small town of Stone Grange have. But as they get tangled up in a decades-old case and small town gossip, they soon realize that investigating isn’t easy. Even worse, one of them may be the killer’s next target.
“She wished that she could find someone who slot into her life perfectly and set her on fire at the same time.
The problem was, she already had that, with the one person she wasn’t supposed to. With Bryce.”
The novella is told from both Thea and Bryce’s third-person POV. It’s clear to the reader (if not the characters themselves) that they both have romantic feelings for the other, but neither want to jeopardize their friendship. Bryce is the serious one of the pair, constantly worrying about her sister Liv. After their mother left when Liv was seven, Bryce took over raising her, not that she wasn’t already doing most of it before that. She just wants to keep Liv from making the same mistakes she did, and she’s tired of having to be stern and anxious all the time. Thea, on the other hand, is the carefree one of the pair who’s always trying to get Bryce to live a little. While they’re both horror fans, Thea’s the one pushing to investigate, needing to find an answer to things in a way that sometimes comes off as tactless.
“With every murder we’ve ever researched, who’s the first to be blamed?”
“The partner. The jealous boyfriend, the abusive husband, the money-grabbing wife.” Bryce didn’t miss a beat. Clearly, she’d already thought about it too. It was strange, how they could be so in sync sometimes, so out of it others. Strange, and terrifying. Thea worried that one day they’d never find that unison again. That one day, they’d fall out of tune and it would stay that way.”
For a novella, I found the characters very well rounded. Part of it, I think, is that a good initial chunk of the book is spent giving background on Thea and Bryce and their relationship. The mystery portion doesn’t really pick up until halfway through the book, though there’s some hilarious bits where Thea is convinced a new arrival to town is actually a serial killer. There’s quite a few red herrings, though I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out who the real suspect is. To be honest, their plans for trying to catch the killer are, well, hilariously awful, but that’s about what I would expect from two people whose only experience is investigating already solved murders! The side characters are interesting, too, from Bryce’s sister Liv, to their best friend Mikey, who helps on the podcast, to Peter, Bryce’s flirting coworker, which sets off all kinds of feelings in Thea that she doesn’t want to admit to.
Overall, this is a fun and quick read, and I’ll definitely be looking up more books by this author. Recommended if you’re a true crime fan!
Content notes: View Spoiler »murder (off page), violence and blood (on-page), parental abandonment (before book starts), death of a parent (before book starts), underage drinking, mentions of substance abuse « Hide Spoiler