ARC Review: Don’t Even Breathe by Keith Haughton

Goodreads: Don’t Even Breathe
Publish date: 18 April 2019
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Florida homicide detective Maggie Novak has seen hundreds of brutal murder cases, but when she is called out to investigate the charred remains of a young woman, in what appears to be a Halloween prank gone wrong, she is confronted with a twenty-year-old secret. The body is formally identified as that of school counselor Dana Cullen, but a distinguishing mark makes Maggie look again. She believes it is the body of her school friend Rita, who perished in a fire twenty years ago. Maggie’s hunt for the truth behind the murder takes her back to a cruel high school trick she’s desperate to forget. And when another body turns up, Maggie realizes she too may be the target of a sinister plot creeping toward its final act. Maggie needs emotional distance to do her job, but she’s so close to this case that she can’t even breathe. Will Maggie be able to uncover the truth of who wanted Rita dead? Or will her past mistakes catch up with her first?

Don’t Even Breathe was more of a slow burn murder mystery than a fast paced thriller. I don’t know if I would even consider this a thriller but the element of mystery was thick throughout the whole novel. The writing style was simple but engaging and it hooked me in from the first chapter; however, Maggie’s narrative was filled with heavy introspection that often times brought the pace down to a crawl. From the beginning, you get the sense that the plot is more complex than what it seems on the surface, and I was constantly left wondering how the different storylines would tie in together.

Maggie’s character was very intense. She was a typical detective, strong and determined with her focus reserved solely for work, and who allowed herself little to no time for a social life. While I found most of her relationships–whether with her boyfriend or father–to be strained and a little detached, I really enjoyed her partnership with Loomis and I thought they made a great team. His character brought a welcome levity to the story and I looked forward to the more active scenes that involved him, and less of Maggie’s inner dialogue. For much of the novel, there were hints of a terrible incident in her teen years that changed everything in her life and was (what she believed to be) the cause of all the ensuing devastation. This was so built up that when the incident was explained, I was disappointed with its execution–it was vague and patchy and fell short of my expectations.

I don’t know if I was entirely convinced of her detective work, it seemed that half the time a second party would be filling in the blanks and connecting the dots for her. But what I found most surprising (and a little irritating) was that, for as great a detective as she was claimed to be, she didn’t realize how her theory of ‘whodunit’ made very little sense. Everything clicked for me at the 80% mark and although the showdown itself felt a bit rushed, I thought Keith Houghton did a good job pulling it all together for a reveal that was a little surprising but not entirely unpredictable. It’s a good lesson in how certain acts in high school, particularly related to bullying, can spread its poison well into adulthood.

This was my first read by Keith Houghton and while it was filled with the typical elements of a detective murder mystery, I enjoyed it enough to be want to pick up another of his books. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and publishers Thomas & Mercer for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Does “Don’t Even Breathe” sound like a book you’d be interested in reading? It’s out on 18 April 2019 so be on the lookout for that awesome cover!