Black Rock Bay – Book Review

By Brianna Labuskes
Published on: October 29, 2019

Atmospheric and at times brooding, this mystery is unique in how it draws the reader into understanding how different life on an isolated island located off the coast of Maine can truly be.


A detective returns to her haunted past, with deadly consequences, in an icy novel of psychological suspense by the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Girls of Glass.

Detective Mia Hart never planned to return home. One terrifying summer night, Mia lost two of her closest friends to suicide. Scarred and broken, she fled St. Lucy’s, a small island off the coast of Maine.

Now fifteen years later, when the body of a journalist is fished out of the bay near St. Lucy’s cliffs, Mia is forced to help with the case—and face all she’s been running from. As she approaches the island, the wintery winds of Black Rock Bay usher Mia home again.

When Mia digs into the reporter’s death, she finds he left behind a written clue: It wasn’t suicide. Mia soon discovers it’s her own tragic past he was referring to. Now, as she tries to untangle a web of lies, Mia realizes that solving this case means becoming the next pawn in someone’s blood-chilling game of truth or die.


There was something a little different in this detective story than some of others I’ve recently read. First, it takes place on a remote island off of Maine. Winter is setting in and opportunities to leave the island for the mainland are not always available. To make matters even more difficult, wifi availability is sketchy and hinders communication for the detectives when they need information from the mainland. Second, the islanders are deeply impacted and probably even a bit scarred by the island’s remoteness. Not only are Individuals in the town required to play multiple roles to keep the island running, but the remoteness has taught them not to look down on those from the mainland and not be open up to new people – it is as if the mainlanders are beneath contempt. This makes for a very unusual inquiry process for the detectives as they try to get answers for their many questions.

The story opens with Detective Mia Hart and Detective Izzy Santiago arriving by a ferry in Black Rock Bay. The body of a man had been found in the water. Mia grew up on the island, but her time there ended in tragedy – suicide of two fellow teenagers, but to make matters worse she was the third individual in this potential suicide pact, but is the only one who made it out that night alive. Part of the issue for her is that her memory of the event is severely limited. The doctors said it was probably repressed memory, but there’s always the question of whether that it correct.

For about 75% of the book, you watch as Mia and Izzy try and try again to get the answers they need or try to figure out the questions they truly need to ask. The islanders only want to talk so much and even then they only really communicate with Mia since she is ‘one of them’ and not Izzy. The whole process goes slower than they’d like. However, every question they ask keeps them going in circles – is the potential suicide/murder they are investigating a stand alone and how is it related to the double suicide of the past – if it does at all.

The ending scenes (last 25%) were different than I had anticipated. I wasn’t surprised by the culprit(s?), but I was surprised at the change of pace or tone of the book in those last parts and how it all came together. It is probably no surprise that the past eventually gets learned. But as we learn the truth behind the past suicide pact event, all I could think of was how incredibly sad it really was that these lives were cut so short and so many had been hurt.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this story. I loved the atmosphere and the difficulties they had on the island as Mia and Izzy investigated. So, if you enjoy mysteries and thrillers that have a closed-in feel where the potential suspects are all stuck together (in a sense), then you may want to give this book a try.

Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

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