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The Suicide House–psychological puzzler

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The Suicide House

by Charlie Donlea

Thrillers are not generally my cup of tea, but Charlie Donlea’s books are good examples of the fine line between thrillers and classic mysteries. His The Suicide House is a solid mystery with multiple murders, many possibilities of felons, quirky investigators, and threads crossing each other at odd angles.  The Suicide House also has a psychological edge, journal writings that will send chills up your spine, and spooky settings, thus moving it along the continuum with a thriller bent.

Upper grade students at the renowned Westmont Preparatory School all know something about the school’s secretive, selective society whose initiates undergo dangerous rites of admission involving The Man in the Mirror. Dangerous turns gruesomely deadly in 2019, followed by several student suicides, but no one is talking. Eventually Rory, an autistic forensic deconstructionist, is invited to conduct an unofficial investigation at the same time her partner Lane, a forensic psychologist, is persuaded to consult with a podcaster who is producing shows that garner a wide following. Neither Mack, the show’s producer, nor anyone else who has investigated, is totally convinced that the accused teacher, Charles Gorman, committed the crimes. There is no physical evidence that he did, and there also is blood from a fourth unidentified person at the crime scene.

My favorite character is Rory who channels her various quirks into finding solutions to cold cases by identifying with those involved and by making connections garnered from the evidence she finds. She is highly intelligent, but her special abilities and what the author calls her “afflictions” make life difficult for her. She finds relief in the details of her work and through reconstructing antique dolls. Her main social contact is Lane who knows her well and goes the extra mile to adjust circumstances to meet her needs.

I recommend this book as an exciting and complex mystery and a bit of a thriller. It goes back and forth by chapter in time frame, setting and perspective. Not particularly good for bedtime reading, The Suicide House will keep you puzzling, guessing, and turning those pages up to an exciting revelation. Four more chapters will bring closure and leave you with a satisfied smile.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller

Publication:   July 28, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Every day brought a funneling twister of emotions. It was how her brain waves fired. If she wasn’t worrying, she was obsessing. And if she was’t obsessing, she was planning. Her mind never really settled down. There was always a low hum of activity going on in her head.

As they made their way through the forest, their steps were fueled by a steady dose of trepidation and curiosity. They had only the seniors to deal with, the summer to get through, and initiation to conquer.

The files represented the case that had woken him up at three in the morning the previous summer. He hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since.


  1. Not to my reading case

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michelle says:

    I like a good mystery. This one sounds interesting! I’ve added it to my list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cozynookbks says:

    I LOVE Charlie Donlea’s books!! 😃 I think this one is the only one I haven’t read. I thought it might be a bit more thriller-ish than the rest so I passed on it. My absolute favorite of his was Don’t Believe It. It was one of my favorite books PERIOD. I also loved Summit Lake.
    Thanks for the excellent review, Linda. Perhaps I might reconsider this one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      There is a lot to like about his books, but his presentation of the character Rory is a draw for me. She is a puzzle to everyone, including herself, but has devised work arounds for herself.


  4. The title puts me off, and I’m also gotten to where I can’t read anything too heavy or serious, I like to read to relax and escape from trouble!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      I understand. There is enough negativity in our world today that we really have to spend time and energy looking for the positive. I think you probably would want to pass on this one. Just because something is well written doesn’t mean you necessarily would want to read it.


  5. Carla says:

    I have read a couple of Charlie Donlea’s books and this one is on my TBR. Thanks for the reminder Linda. Wonderful review. I also like Rory’s character and look forward to reading more about her. Whenever I read about someone with autism living, working and having an independent life, it makes my heart happy, even if this one has some crime and mystery in it.

    Liked by 1 person

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