Blog Tour, Excerpt & #ATBR2021 Reviews – Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell

Blog tour day! Released today!

Thanks to Berkley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review

KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS – David Bell (Released July 6th, 2021)

Book Description:

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There’s just one problem: Connor didn’t write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor’s problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma–admit he didn’t write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student’s manuscript.

This is a suspenseful, provocative novel about the sexual harassment that still runs rampant in academia–and the lengths those in power will go to cover it up.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Imagine mourning the loss of your wife and child and having the added pressure of having to publish in order to reach tenure at your Uni. Imagine a star pupil of yours drops a hand written novel in your lap as her thesis but then happens to go missing and is presumed dead. Um, problem… meet solution. But solution becomes problem again when missing/presumed dead girl shows up at his house. INSTANT HOOK!

Y’all – the synopsis of this books tells a lot about the story, but not *quite* everything and the trip we as readers take us fun, fun, fun! Oh, did I mention that the book also describes a murder that happened IRL in detail and now he’s a suspect? EEP! We get Madeleine’s (not so missing girl) past & present POVs and Connor (widower and plagiarizer) & Rebecca’s (writing student) present POV. But can we talk about the true star, Grendel? I mean, pets are always the star, am I right? 😏. Whatever, he’s adorable and I love his name!

Look, Bell brings us yet another binge worthy thriller that touches on grief, writer’s block, plagiarism and the all too real issue of harassment of all kinds inside the academic world. With the different POVs, there’s overlapping stories which can feel repetitive but lends to the story itself. I do think it could’ve been trimmed down a bit but reads so fast that this is just being nit picky. I wasn’t expecting that final twist and I wish we got a *bit* more to make it more plausible but honestly, in thrillers, if the characters didn’t surprise us… well, what fun is that?

My Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Another thriller from David Bell that did not disappoint! If you’re wanting something you can binge with plenty of good twists and suspense, then you can never go wrong with picking a book by David Bell. KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS is no different and we’re brought into the academic world where plagiarism and a disappearance are the focus. What would you do if the perfect story fell into your lap?

English Professor Connor Nye is struggling. Not only is he grieving the death of his wife and son but the pressure is mounting for him to be published to secure his tenure at the university. Dealing with writer’s block, the perfect manuscript crosses his desk in the form of a student’s senior thesis. Madeline goes missing and Connor saw his opportunity and took it – “My Best Friend’s Murder” is now his best-selling novel and everything is looking up. Years later, the presumed dead, Madeline shows up on his doorstep demanding the credit and fame that was rightfully hers.

As if this isn’t enough, his best-seller has caught the attention of a detective because there are some details in the book that are eerily similar to am old cold case. Details that only the killer would know as they were left out of any reports to the public, so naturally he’s become a person of interest. Is Madeline involved? How can he implicate her without admitting to his plagiarism?

I loved this and the suspense. Definitely one you’ll want to clear some time out for. I feel like there could have been shorter in some places but otherwise the POVs we got were great and really kept the pace up. And now the wait begins for the next David Bell release!

Book Excerpt:

Now that it’s out, I feel agitated, restless. My thoughts are a jumble. “Do you want a drink or something?” I ask. “I think I need bourbon.”

“Sure,” she says. “I always drank when you paid.”

I go back out to the kitchen, Grendel at my heels. It’s cold out, and I’d turned the heat down when I left the house. But I feel flushed, sweaty. Almost like I have a fever. I open the corner cabinet and take down a bottle of Rowan’s Creek and two glasses. When Jake was born, twenty years ago, Emily’s brother gave me a bottle of Rowan’s Creek, so whenever I drink it, I think of my son. My hand shakes as I pour.

Grendel starts eating. I hear his chomping in the corner.

“You were drinking a lot when I last saw you.”

I turn toward Madeline. She’s standing in the doorway from the living room, leaning against the jamb.

“I was,” I say. “I’ve cut back. A lot. I had to.” I hand her the glass, trying to control the trembling. “But I think I could use one or maybe two tonight.”

“I guess it isn’t every day that a ghost shows up in your house.”

I swallow and lean back against the counter. “They looked for you, Madeline. Searches all over campus and town. It was on the news. Some people thought you just up and ran off on a whim. Some students do that. Impulse trips.”

“Some kids can afford to do that.”

“Right. But they looked in your apartment. You left all your books and clothes behind. You were an excellent student, an honors student, a few months away from getting a degree. And you stopped coming to class. The police questioned everybody who’d had any contact with you, including me. Especially me because we were all at the bar that night.”

“And I left Dubliners right after you did.”

“Right. Some of this is fuzzy. How I got home . . . how I even man- aged to get my key in the lock and get inside . . . I kind of think you came with me . . . but I don’t know how far . . .”

“Out in the living room you were talking about the book,” she says, arms crossed, glass in front of her. “After you read it and wanted to talk to me and I was gone.”

I finish my first glass and pour another. This is it, I tell myself. Just two drinks.

“You know I have to publish to get tenure,” I say. “That’s the way to survive in academia.”

“I’ve heard about that.” “Publish or perish, they call it.” “It sounds awfully bleak.”

“It can be,” I say. “And I hadn’t published anything in the seven years I’d been here. That book of stories Autumn Sunset came out when I was still in graduate school, so it didn’t count. If you don’t get tenure, you get fired. And if I didn’t get tenure here, I probably wouldn’t get hired anywhere else. They’d see I failed to produce, and no one would touch me. Why would they want a middle-aged guy with a huge blank spot in his publication record?”

“You could tell them about your family,” Madeline says.

“Sure. And the university here gave me an extra year for bereavement. I still couldn’t produce a book or even a few stories.” Grendel appears to be finished eating. He slurps some water, shakes his head, and goes back out to his perch on the couch. “Dr. White, the department chair, is a pretty good friend. And he really looked out for me. But he could only do so much. And he was really on me, reminding me what was at stake. He kept telling me, ‘Just produce something, Connor.’”

“No pressure, right? Hurry up and write an entire book while you’re grieving.”

“Life goes on at some point.” I drink some more. “The world doesn’t stop forever. Six months had passed after you disappeared. Six months. No one really said it out loud, but everybody was thinking the same thing. After a few days—a week, really—people were thinking the worst had happened. That you weren’t coming back. That you were dead. Murdered. Even your mom said it in an interview she did with the local paper. Does she know you’re—”

“I’ll call her soon,” Madeline says, her voice sharp. “You just finish telling me about the book and how all of this happened.”

We’ve reversed roles. She’s asking the questions. She’s playing the part of authority figure. And I feel compelled to answer her and give a full accounting of myself.

“I had your book,” I say. “Almost all handwritten. And you were gone. And I had an agent interested in my writing from years ago, although I wasn’t even sure she still knew I existed. I took your handwrit- ten book and retyped it on my computer.”

“You gave me a hard time about turning in a handwritten draft. I told you my computer died.”

“It turned out to be to my advantage. I made some of the revisions as I went along. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to send it anywhere, that I was just going to type the book out as an exercise, a way to get my own creative juices flowing again. But the deadline was coming up for my tenure review. And I really wasn’t sure how I would handle it if I lost this job. On top of everything else, to be unemployed with nowhere to go.”

Madeline shows concern as she listens. She’s nodding, encouraging me to keep talking. And it feels good, really good, to finally unburden myself of the secret I’ve been carrying around for the past eighteen months. Even if I am unburdening myself to the person most directly harmed by my actions.

“It’s so hard to get a book published,” I say. “What are the chances for anyone? It was a whim. A Hail Mary play. But my agent loved the story. And within a few weeks, an editor loved it. And bought it. I kept telling myself to speak up, to tell them it wasn’t mine. But the train just kept gathering momentum and . . . I have to be honest . . . after every- thing that had gone wrong for me, after all my struggles with writing, to hear people saying such nice things felt really, really good.”

I look at her, and she swallows some of her bourbon. The look on her face has shifted, from concern and understanding to something I can’t really read. Her eyes look flat and cold, pale marbles staring back at me.

“I’m sorry, Madeline,” I say. “I really am.”

She takes her time responding, and then says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t show up here without a plan for how you’ll make this all right.”

“Excerpted from KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS by David Bell, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by David Bell

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