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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

What Lies In Darkness

Jess Lambert Thriller #2

ISBN: 978-1662511646

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 07/16/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)

A missing family.

A traumatized detective.

The past and present collide in a riveting novel of suspense by the USA Today bestselling author of These Still Black Waters, Do No Harm, Behind Every Lie, and The Night Olivia Fell.

Late Christmas Eve, the Harper family’s car crashed on a desolate stretch outside Black Lake. Sixteen-year-old Alice was found injured by the side of the road―alone. It was as if her parents and younger sister, Ella, had simply disappeared.

One year later, Alice is still dealing with nightmares and unanswered questions when she and her friends find Ella’s bloodstained backpack in the basement of an abandoned home. As Detective Jess Lambert investigates, she uncovers dark secrets that put her on a collision course with her past. Jess’s only witness is haunted by her own ghosts―ghosts that might ultimately be connected to Jess.

Jess will do anything to find out what happened to the Harpers―no matter how deep she has to dig. Because neither the living nor the dead are giving up their secrets easily.

About the Author

Christina McDonald is the USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author of These Still Black Waters, Do No Harm, Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio.

Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times, Dublin,, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has a BA in Communications from the University of Washington and an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway. She now lives in London, England with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Tango. She’s currently working on her next novel.

Christina enjoys reading, hiking and lifting weights at the gym. She always wanted to be a writer, and told her earliest stories to her two younger sisters, who were her first audience, cheerleaders and sounding board. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Washington, Seattle and an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Going to college in Ireland wasn’t part of the master plan, but happened randomly when Christina went traveling and arrived completely jet lagged at Heathrow Airport in London, caught sight of the Aer Lingus desk, and spontaneously bought a ticket to Ireland. She loved it so much she went back the following year to study.

She is currently writing her next novel.

Connect with Christina:

Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.


"Behind the Book & The Author"

with Bestselling Author

Christina McDonald

Coming, July


“Utterly compelling. In Detective Jess Lambert, McDonald has captured the perfect mix of gritty determination and haunted soul. With twists and turns everywhere, What Lies in Darkness delivers the kind of page-turner you don’t just read but devour.”

―Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author

“What Lies in Darkness is a riveting story about the love of family, the devastation of loss, and the secrets we keep. And it has earned Christina McDonald a place in the pantheon of thriller-writer greats. Change your plans for the night because you won’t be able to put this one down.”

―Alex Finlay, If Something Happens to Me

“Jess Lambert is my new favorite detective! Christina McDonald’s What Lies in Darkness is a must-read. Every single character leaps off the page. The story grabbed me on page one and didn’t let go until the last shocking, twisty page!”

―Debra Webb, USA Today bestselling author of All the Little Truths

“What Lies in Darkness is both a smart and edgy mystery and a searing portrayal of loss and betrayal. In Detective Jess Lambert, McDonald has gifted crime fiction with an unforgettable lead, a woman both in love with and struggling against the ghosts that haunt her. I tore through this, mesmerized by the dueling perspectives, hypnotized by McDonald’s prose, and shocked by twists that kept coming all the way to the very last page. This is the perfect book for readers who love their thrillers fast paced and deeply emotionally intelligent.”

―Ashley Winstead, author of Midnight Is the Darkest Hour

“Eerie and evocative, Christina McDonald’s genre-bending police procedural / paranormal mystery masterfully (and beautifully) explores grief, loss, longing, and healing. The stakes are high, the tension is palpable, and the secrets are explosive. Be prepared for breath-hitching twists you never saw coming.”

―Marcy McCreary, author of The Summer of Love and Death

“With richly drawn characters and striking imagery, Christina McDonald delivers a taut, thick-with-atmosphere puzzler that doubles as a meditation on resilience in the face of trauma and an exploration of the sacrifices we make for those we love. Don’t miss it!”

―E. G. Scott, internationally bestselling author of The Rule of Three

“Shocking, atmospheric, and tense, What Lies in Darkness is an emotionally powerful and twisty page-turner. With rich prose and multi-faceted characters, McDonald has expertly crafted a genre-bending supernatural thriller, making it an absolute must-read!”

―Jeneva Rose, New York Times bestselling author

“What Lies in Darkness is a smart, twisty thriller you won’t soon forget. Expertly crafted, with complex and fascinating characters. I am hooked on the Jess Lambert series. It keeps getting better and better.”

―Samantha Downing, internationally bestselling author

“What Lies in Darkness follows Jess Lambert through a perplexing case when a family goes missing, leaving one girl behind. Skillfully plotted with finely tuned prose, this compelling thriller will leave readers wanting more from McDonald and the flawed but wonderfully human protagonist she’s created!”

―Wendy Walker, nationally bestselling author of What Remains






My Review

Readers, here is a TOTAL package: From the powerhouse author (Christina McDonald), a powerhouse series (Detective Jess Lambert), and a compelling and dazzling powerhouse novel, WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS!

A must-read series, author, and novel, making the early Top Books of 2024 lists everywhere and among the thriller community—the most loved, flawed, and relatable protagonist by fans, Detective Jess Lambert.


We were wowed by #1 in the Jess Lambert series, THESE STILL BLACK WATERS, and then a bonus surprise, a novella, #.5 (brilliant), THE STRANGER AT BLACK LAKE, where we met Jess before becoming a detective. Now, we have the latest #2, WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS which is mind-blowing sensational! I highly recommend reading them in this order because you do not want to miss a thing! Trust me, you will be salivating, waiting for the next in the series.


In WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS, the past and present collide in this complex, emotionally charged, genre-bending suspense crime thriller. The rollercoaster of emotions, twists, characters, and tension will keep you guessing and your heart pounding until the explosive ending. A young teen girl is left behind after an entire family vanishes after an accident with barely a trace while a tormented and guilt-ridden detective is desperately looking for answers.


It is Christmas Eve, snowing and we meet the Harper family. Dad, Pete, mom, Laura, and two girls, Alice (16) and Ella (10). However, the evening will turn deadly, at the witching hour out on the dark roads. They were happy until they were gone.

The family always stayed at Mel and Jack's, (aunt and uncle? home on Christmas Eve because they had a big house, money and loved to entertain. They always had fun. But this year, Alice had a sore throat after the festivities and the parents decided to go home instead of staying over.

On the way home in the snow, on the dark, icy roads, there was a road-closed sign with construction barriers blocking the road. The dad spun the minivan around and turned into Killer's Grove (a haunted road). The couple of miles of road that stretched through the forest near Black Lake were haunted. Their mom had always warned them about the witching hour that nothing good happens after midnight when all the spirits come out of hiding.

The dad lost control of the car. The weather was bad. A horrible accident. Alice was knocked out, and then when she came to, there was no one. The van was empty. Her family was gone. She was found injured on the side of the road and wound up in the hospital.

Alice was the only one left behind, and she never found her family. There were lots of speculation, but nothing. Some thought her dad killed her mother and Ella and hid the bodies then killed himself. However, Alice thought her father was kind and would not do this.

How could a family disappear? Why was Alice left? She feels like a freak, the forgotten one, the girl left behind.

A year later December - Anniversary

Alice is barely coping as a teen with her sister, mom, and dad gone. Why would someone leave her behind? She has survivor's guilt. She is now living with her Aunt Meg (owner of a yoga studio), Uncle Jack (real estate developer), and baby Finn (age 4). However, she does not feel like she belongs.

She was seeing a therapist and often saw her dad and others in a ghostly form. Then her friend, Maya, whose mom cleaned vacation rental homes, stole the keys, threw parties at the empty homes, and charged admission to save money for college.

When they were cleaning up one house in the basement afterward, Alice stayed to help. They found Ella's backpack with the daisy on the back in an old steamer trunk. What was Ella's backpack doing in this house?

Detective Jess Lambert

One year ago was the night that changed her life. A car accident killed her precious little girl, Isla, age 8. Her therapist calls the traumaversary. She has a bad leg and more than physical pain, there is the mental pain of her dead child and the loss of her husband, Mac. She lives to help others and bring in the bad guys.

Now she is on the Harper case. The case is re-opened with new evidence. Nothing about this case is simple. The family who went missing last Christmas. No witnesses. No ransom demands. No motive. Just an entire family, vanished with barely a trace. She had been in the hospital trying to learn to walk again, losing herself in pain meds and booze and trying to escape the nightmares.

Killer's Grove had a reputation for witch gatherings, ghost sightings, and the unexplained disappearance of the Harpers last year, so people say it is haunted. What happened that night? Are the dark secrets buried somewhere?

Told from alternating POVs of Alice, Jess, and Laura

(past before the accident) and present.

Then an arm and a body in a suitcase in that same basement is found by Jess. Who is in the suitcase and where are the other family members? The more Jess dives into the case, the more sinister things appear. Jess feels something unsettling and spine-chilling. Nothing or no one is as they appear.

Mix in a crime podcast, The Darkest Night, and all the many theories, the atmospheric setting, the forest, the snow, the dangerous chasms and gorges, the intelligent investigating, and all the creepy things happening with ghostly appearances, and you will be on the edge of your seat. Trust no one.

Little does Jess know how this case will connect with one of the worst nights of her life. Could this case help Alice find out what happened to her parents and what happened to Jess a year ago? Could they hope for closure? But in the meantime, there is a killer out there, and it may be closer than they know.

Alice is clever, perceptive, sensitive, and astute. But is she telling the whole truth? You will not be able to predict the multi-level mega head-spinning twists and turns and how this one will play out.

Detective Jess Lambert is faced with her most emotional case yet as all the haunting past comes back to the surface. She and Alice bond over their tragedy and she is determined to find closure for this haunted girl, much like herself. She will do everything in her power to find this family and solve this mystery.

My thoughts...

WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS is off the charts spectacular! Edgy, dazzling, haunting, electrifying, twisty, emotionally complex, and totally gripping! Prime for the big or small screen—this series is exceptional.


Razor sharp, blending the best of literary fiction with the author's stunning lyrical prose, with richly drawn and complex characters, an ongoing mystery and intrigue of a missing family with dual timelines, twisty psychological suspense, domestic and family drama, a riveting crime thriller, an intense and smartly written cop procedural, and as an added bonus, a mind-bending paranormal. Now, readers, you are getting your money's worth and then some.

The author...

First, let me express how much I admire and adore this author. I have been a devoted fan of hers since her debut and every hit title since! A gifted storyteller, she is a master of suspense and the real deal. I'm not sure how she does it, but each book she writes surprises, and I believe she keeps surpassing herself with each new release! You know when you pick up a CM book, you are in for a rare treat. An adventure like no other. When you think of Christina, you think —gripping PAGE-TURNER. Set aside the time.

McDonald smartly delves deep into her character's psyche. Her books are emotionally gripping, ranging from grief, dark secrets of the past, death, survivor's guilt, family, loss, trauma, betrayal, longing, fear, and pain to love, acceptance, forgiveness, joy, healing, and hope. Her characters are flawed and highly relatable. Her protagonist is smart, intelligent, and flawed.

The writing is stunning and I bookmarked many pages.

With the atmospheric setting, and the vivid descriptions, combined with the gorgeous writing and compelling characters with a first-class cop procedural and a winning protagonist, I cannot recommend WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS enough and this author. Get this series on your list now! I cannot wait for more Jess Lambert!


This is for Christina McDonald fans and those of Wendy Walker, Allen Eskens, Heather Gudenkauf, Lisa Unger, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Gardner.

Stay tuned for my upcoming #AuthorElevatorSeries Chat with Christina on pub day (July 16), where we will discuss the book, series, and more from this gifted storyteller!

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the gifted ARC for review purposes.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Day: July 16, 2024

My Rating: 5 Stars +


Interviews with Christina McDonald







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