This edition of All Booked was originally emailed to subscribers on February 22, 2022. To receive Emily Cosentino Lee and Caitlin Fitch’s literary newsletter in your inbox, sign up at

Hello, book lovelies!

February is the month of love, and as we are approaching the end, I wanted to shout out something that I love most in books: murder! Honestly, if there isn’t a murder in a book, I don’t really want to read it. That may sound dark, and perhaps it is, but there is also a thrill that comes with reading a murder mystery or a psychological thriller that I crave. I love the rush of solving the mystery, and the satisfaction of guessing “the twist.” And it’s fiction — so really it’s all good, right?

In celebration of my love for fictional murder and because this will be my last All Booked newsletter for a few months, I want to highlight some of my most recent mystery and thriller reads. The recommendations below span from light and fun murder mysteries to some heavier and dark thrillers. I encourage you to look up content warnings as necessary.

I am a big believer in going into a book knowing as little as possible about it. I try not to read too much of the synopses or reviews, since most of them over-share. My pitches below are short and sweet just for that reason.

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If you are new to the thriller or mystery genre, then Finlay Donovan is your gal. Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is one of the most fun books I have ever read. We follow Finlay, a stressed-out single mom and struggling crime writer, who is just trying to make ends meet. When chatting about her latest project with her agent at a Panera Bread, a neighboring table-mate overhears Finlay describing her book deal and mistakes Finlay for an assassin. The woman slips her a note requesting Finlay “takes care” of her husband for a hefty $50k. A hilarious yet not-cheesy adventure ensues.

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When No One is Watching, by Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite reads so far this year. Cole ties the horrors of gentrification and racism together in this thriller novel set in Brooklyn. We follow Sydney Green, who starts to notice changes happening in her neighborhood. New construction seems to be everywhere, apartments are selling more than usual, and her lifelong neighbors are disappearing overnight. This book gave me the creeps. If you are looking for a thriller with a bit more substance and discussion of social issues, this is it.

*When No One is Watching is the August 2022 Indy Book Club pick.

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If you love books with multiple points of view or past and present timeline, then you’re in luck because Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay has both! We follow Matt Pine, who after a night out partying learns that almost his entire family has been found dead. While assisting the FBI with an investigation, Pine goes on his own journey to try and figure out what really happened to his family.

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The Appeal by Janice Hallett is not for everyone. For starters, the entire book is told through emails, messages, letters, and files. Additionally, many if not all of the characters are unlikeable. And finally, there are about 25 characters you need to keep track of and learn how they are related to one another. Now, if you’re still interested, then you may end up liking this novel … but no promises. Personally, I am unsure if I enjoyed this book or not. At times I found myself really enjoying it and flying through pages, and other times I found it slightly exhausting to read (especially after reading emails all day at my job). But the ending was satisfying and the format is so unique that I feel the story will stick with me for a long time.

Let me know some of your favorite mystery and thrillers. I’m always looking for more to add to my list.

Your smitten bookworm, Emily

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We at the Independent get many books sent to us by local authors, sometimes too many! It’s practically impossible for us to read and review them all, but just because we are busy bees does not mean that they aren’t worth the attention. In an attempt to not completely drop the ball, we have compiled a list of books here that have a local spin. They are all either written by a local author, feature someone in our community, or have another tie to Santa Barbara. I urge you to look through this list. Perhaps you will find your new favorite read!

The Ghost and the Greyhound, Bryan Snyder

At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach Us about Dying Well and Living Better, William Peters

Off-Script: a mom’s journey through adoption, a husband’s alcoholism and special needs parenting, Valerie Cantella

Werewolf, David Alton Hedges

The Whisper of a Distant God, David L Gersh

The Premonition, Michael Lewis

Santa Barbara and Beyond: The Photography of Mike Eliason, Mike Eliason

A Parable of Lies, Lawrence Spann

The Fig District, Jeff Shelton

Cinema in Flux, Roger Durling

The Transentients, Sergio Missana, translated by Jessica Powell

Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfts: Americans Against the Grain, Arthur Hoyle

Bedtrick, Jinny Webber

If you are a local author and would like us to feature your book in this section, please email us at


Indy Book Club is a monthly community book club hosted by the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara Public Library, where we read and discuss books on a wide range of themes and genres. Join in on the literary fun!

February’s Indy Book Club Selection:

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

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Publisher’s Synopsis: In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her past — including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life — and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

Read SBPL Librarian Molly Wetta’s review

Get Your Copy: Borrow a physical copy from the Santa Barbara Public Library, listen to the audiobook on Hoopla or Libby, or read the ebook on Hoopla or Libby.

We would love for you to come and chat about the book with us! It is very informal, and we usually spend about 30 minutes chatting about the book and then the last 30 minutes giving recommendations and chatting about other books we’ve read.

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