|Absolutely love this cover for The Freak Show Below|
This mystery had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. The main characters are sisters, Kirbie and Laken Stone. Kirbie is tight-laced and very professional while Laken is a party girl who is recovering from an addiction to alcohol. I immediately saw myself in Kirbie--wanting to be the best big sister, setting a perfect example, etc. (I will say there is no Laken in my family!) Even though Kirbie is very by-the-book, she is incredibly likable, and the more we find out about the girls' past the more I felt for both sisters.
Laken has been tricked into signing a contract to work in The Freak Show Below at the local casino. Ryker does a great job of keeping us tantalized about what that means without giving it away until over halfway through the book. In the meantime, we meet lots of wonderful, freaky characters who have entered agreements with the scummy casino owner for one reason or another. Some of these characters will instantly tug at your heart (like Henry!) and some of them will make you want to punch them in the face through your Kindle (like Stella!) As Laken got more and more involved in the Freak Show, I became more and more invested in hoping she got out before anything awful happened to her! I was praying Kirbie would find her quickly!
Of course, Kirbie wasn't looking for Laken all alone. Hunky HR manager, Evan, is there to help. I loved the chemistry between these two. It was cute and sexy without being overbearing.
Another aspect of the book that really drew me in is the story of Kirbie and Laken's sister, Spooky, and the tragic events that happened to her when they were all children. It was both heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.
I'm not going to tell you whether or not Laken has to perform in the Freak Show, but I will tell you the daring rescue mission is definitely worth the read, as is Laken's heroic attempt to escape. I certainly did not see the ending coming and was surprised by more than one turn of events in this one.
I felt Ryker did an amazing job of setting us up right in the action. Unlike a lot of books, there wasn't a long, drawn out backstory. A lot has happened with these characters before we are dropped into their lives, but she gives it to us a piece at a time. I really feel like a prequel could be in order as interesting as the backstory is. Despite knowing I didn't have all of the information just yet, I didn't feel like I had accidentally picked up book two in a series, though.
If you like quick-paced, clever, creative mysteries that will keep you entertained while you try to figure out lots of different puzzles, then this is a great read for you. I actually think this is the first true mystery I've reviewed, at least recently, but I am now a huge fan of Jada Ryker's and will be checking out her other books as well.
If you'd like to read The Freak Show Below (A Kirbie Stone Mystery Book 1) you can check it out here. The current price is $2.99.