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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

After Nightfall

After Nightfall

ISBN: 978-1503900813

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 8/7/2018

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Top Books of 2018 Beware of friends with secrets… Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.


My Review

Bestselling author, AJ Banner returns following The Twilight Wife with her best yet—AFTER NIGHTFALL. Banner carefully conceals hidden motives and secrets until the startling conclusion. A well-written taut page-turning “whodunit”—hooks you from the first page and never lets up.

An utterly mesmerizing twisty tale. Where everyone is a suspect— in this chilling and atmospheric psychological thriller. Banner masterfully showcases her creative talent for a brilliantly plotted, character-driven, intense, and utterly addictive must summer read.

Set in the idyllic and peaceful Pacific Northwest, the book begins with Marissa (the nervous hostess) a speech-language pathologist —at the home of her fiancé, Nathan Black. A stunning clifftop house in Tranquil Cove, an upscale community on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. A sleepy town of ten thousand residents, west of Seattle on the shores of Enchanted Bay.

The dinner party was to celebrate Nathan’s fortieth birthday and to announce their engagement and upcoming wedding in May.


Lauren and Jensen. They live next door to Nathan. Lauren and Marissa are old friends from childhood. However, something happened years ago, and Marissa is slowly allowing the voluptuous and manipulative old friend, Lauren back into her life. Can she trust her? Why did they buy the house next door to Nathan?

Lauren is drinking plenty of red wine and openly flirting with Nathan in front of her. FYI (Marissa and Jensen have a past). Lauren has no problem seducing men. Marissa wishes she had not invited her.

They were formerly best buddies, before college sharing hopes and dreams. Exactly when did their friendship crack apart? During college, they went their separate ways until the previous year when she got a job at the hospital.

Anna: Nathan’s daughter with his ex-wife Rianne. Anna has some stuttering problems, and Marissa is her therapist. This is how Marissa and Nathan met. Is she happy Nathan is getting married again or does she secretly want her parents to reunite? She continues to text her mom.

Uncle Keith and Aunt Hedra: Nathan’s brother (doctor) and his wife. Nathan and Keith do not get along. Strange vibes are going on between Nathan, Keith, and Hedra. Keith has a dark side (creepy). Mysterious.

Then at the dinner party, abruptly Lauren receives a text and is anxious to leave. She says from her daughter. Marissa confronts her about the falling all over Nathan. She says, “I need to talk to you.” However, Lauren needs to get back to the party, and Lauren says, “Tomorrow. It’s important. You want to hear this. It’s about Nathan.”

Then she is off. However, there is NO tomorrow.

Keith and Hedra stay overnight along with Anna. Nathan disappears in the middle of the night. Marissa took a sleeping pill.

The next morning, Marissa discovers Lauren’s body at the bottom of a cliff. Did she fall or was she pushed? Murder? Did she walk to the edge of the cliff and take a deliberate step into darkness? Or did she have too much to drink and slip?

What did Lauren’s message the previous night mean?

After NightFall

Despite Lauren’s behavior at dinner and the dark turn their friendship, Marissa wants to find out her murdered her. She is driving herself crazy. Detective Dan Harding is assigned to the case.

There was an umbrella. A scarf. All this seemed strange to Marissa since her old friend was terrified of heights and never wore scarves. The cops question everyone. Nathan and Lauren must protect Anna from the news, internet, violence, and death. She is fragile, and she may stop talking again. It is important for Marissa to learn what happened. The murderer is still out there, and it could be someone close.

With a cast of intriguing characters, including Arthur Nguyen, a sixty-something, divorced, family-law attorney. His wife left him, and he consoles himself by walking his terrier, Bert and pretends to fish in the pond in his backyard. He was unable to come to the dinner party. What did he see?

Also, Nathan seems very protective of Rianne (owner of a boutique consignment shop with some mental health issues) —Anna’s mother. Anna starts acting weird and disappears, and then Marissa suspects something between Nathan and Hedra. What is Anna afraid of and what is she hiding?

In the midst of all of this, Marissa is playing sleuth to get to the bottom of the mystery. Who murdered her former friend, Lauren and what was it she was going to tell her? She does not know whom to trust. Then the dress.

With a foreboding feeling of unease and darkness lurking, everyone is acting strangely. Who has a motive? Is there something more sinister at play? How do the dots connect all these players? Is Nathan the man she thought he was? What about Anna? Can people be both good and bad?

You must read this compelling mystery to discover the answers!

Banner does a masterful job of layering the mysteries in this fast-paced and unnerving suspense. An electrifying and addictive tale. The talented author has outdone herself. OMG, I stayed up two nights in the row to 3 am, hating to put it down and could not wait to get back to it. I was hooked. Loved it!

At 90% was dying. Banner knows how to build suspense and hold you there. There was never a lull in the pace. Often domestic suspense drags. Not the case here. There is non-stop action with multiple twists and turns and red herrings. A true talent of thriller writing. Movie-worthy. Will be fun choosing the cast.

The atmospheric setting, cliffside, the rain. You could almost hear, see, and smell. The attention to detail draws you in as you frantically turn the pages to see what is coming around the corner.

AFTER NIGHTFALL weaves an engrossing mystery —with richly developed characters in complex relationships, for an entertaining and compelling read.

All I could I could think about was another Big Little Lies and a TV series. Big screen or small screen, the setting, the characters, and the plot are prime time. From the beautiful front cover to each— and every page – a WINNER! (You must purchase the hardcopy. The embossing is luxurious). It is a coffee table book to showcase, not one to hide on a bookshelf.

Highly Recommend! Looking forward to seeing what is next.

A special thank you to the author, #NetGalley, and #LakeUnion for an advanced reading copy.


Review Links:




On BookBub's list of 18 of the Best Psychological Thrillers Coming Summer 2018.

“[A] gripping psychological thriller…Well-laid clues allow the reader to sleuth along…” —Publishers Weekly

“In After Nightfall, A. J. Banner has created an elegant and taut psychological thriller that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page.” —Authorlink

“After Nightfall is a chilling drama…Well-fleshed out characters keep the reader wondering just what is going on…” —New York Journal of Books

“A fast-paced, suspenseful whodunit that will keep you reading long into the night. If you love a well-written, intelligent, psychological thriller, this is the book for you! I highly recommend it.” —Book Review Crew

“We tore through the pages of After Nightfall, a masterful thriller that's twisty in the very best way. A. J. Banner will keep you guessing until the final sentence, with an ending so shocking you’ll be gasping for breath.” —Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, bestselling authors of The Good Widow

“After Nightfall is a chilling and fast-paced whodunit with a cast of characters who will keep you guessing who to trust until the very end. Get ready for a twisty, suspenseful read. A. J. Banner has done it again!” —Kaira Rouda, USA Today bestselling author of Best Day Ever

"Banner ramps up the tension to eleven in this mega-twisty murder mystery thrill ride! Think you've nailed the culprit? Think again...and again..." —Erica Ferencik, author of The River at Night, #1 Pick,


After Nightfall

“Gripping and arresting! After Nightfall is a stellar psychological thriller. Banner had me second-guessing every character throughout the entire novel. I literally couldn’t figure out who’d done it until the reveal. And it was shocking. Love that!” —Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author

“Moody and beautifully atmospheric, After Nightfall is a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the final page, the final sentence even, a heart-stopping revelation. I highly recommend it!” —Barbara Taylor Sissel, bestselling author of Faultlines and The Truth We Bury

“After Nightfall is a moody, haunting thriller that masterfully explores the complex dynamics of fractured families, fractured marriages, and fractured friendships. This book grabbed me from the opening scene and kept me frantically turning pages until the shocking final chapter. A. J. Banner’s best book yet!” —Robyn Harding, internationally bestselling author of The Party

“A. J. Banner keeps the pages turning with this twisty thriller that strikes right at the heart of our closest relationships.” —Wendy Walker, bestselling author of Emma in the Night


About the Author

AJ Banner

Photo Credit: Carol Ann Morris

As a child, A. J. Banner loved reading everything from Nancy Drew to Tolkien to her parents’ spy novels, “borrowed” from their bookshelves and hidden beneath her pillow. She wrote her first thriller, Mystery at Crane Corner, at the age of 11. She drew her own cover art and bound the pages with staples.

Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. graduated from high school in southern California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She tried various professions after college, including a stint in law school and a memorable job at a veterinary clinic, since she loves animals, but eventually she returned to writing. Her recent novel of psychological suspense, THE TWILIGHT WIFE (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) became a USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller.

Her debut novel of psychological suspense, THE GOOD NEIGHBOR was the #1 Kindle bestseller for 34 days, remained in the top five on the Kindle bestseller list throughout the book’s release month, and was in the top 50 in the Kindle store for 145 days in a row. THE GOOD NEIGHBOR was named by Harper’s Bazaar as a book that could be the next GONE GIRL. In 2018, Lake Union Publishing will release her third novel of psychological suspense, THE NIGHT HUSBAND, with a fourth novel to follow (publication dates TBA).

A longtime fan of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, A. J. feels at home writing stories with unexpected twists and turns. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats. Read More

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