Review – Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco

My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐



In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.  Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives… but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.  As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege.  And, as they become targets, Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.


Ludlow is an American town with a population consisting of more deer than people.  This small town seems incestuous and secretive, like it is hiding something.  So when a well-respected local doctor winds up dead, murder is suspected and this is the first murder case ever to be reported from Ludlow.  A team of three from nearby Seattle; Madison, Brown and Sorensen, are roped into helping solve this mysterious tragedy as it would seem that Ludlow’s own police department is just too small to handle such a case.  Although they are competent, they basically haven’t got a clue as to how an investigation like this should be run.

Straight away we are thrown into stunning descriptions that have an air of mystery about them.  It is the perfect start to such a detailed thriller and to use the cliche phrase “I couldn’t put it down” is an understatement.  If I was an author then this is the book I would want to write.  It is astounding, heart-pumping stuff from Valentina Giambanco, and the only thing I wish is that I had read the other three books in the Alison Madison series first.  Don’t worry though, this can completely be read as a standalone novel, although if the other three are anything like this one then perhaps you should start from the top with The Gift of Darkness.

I can tell by Giambanco’s writing alone that she is of Italian descent.  Her style is dark, sultry and has a real flair to it that I rarely see in authors.  It is utter perfection and I cannot believe that I haven’t heard of her until now!  I would even compare Giambanco to the great Tess Gerritsen who is one of my all time favourite crime-writers, so that is quite a big statement for me to make.  The detailing behind everything written is phenomenal.  Even the science behind a crime scene investigation has been meticulously researched which makes for an interesting read.

Alison Madison is quite a hidden, complex character.  She is ambitious, intelligent and thinks quick on her feet.  She is the type I would perhaps enjoy a cold beer with whilst putting the world to rights.  We are taken back in time during the book to when Madison was a little girl and has ran away from home.  She ends up lost on a mountain with a man she nicknamed ‘The Hunter’, who she is scared of but intrigued by.  This part of her life has obviously impacted the rest of it in some way and shows what time of person she has become now; resourceful and fearless.  I feel though that Giambanco is holding onto some part of her character until a later book.  We shall see…

There are snippets of a sub-plot following a boy called Samuel who lives on a farm with his dad and eleven siblings.  There is something not quite right about this family.  The father is strict and plays horrible hunting/prey games with the children so they get to understand the woods.  I was intrigued by this part of the story and Giambanco is so good at teasing you as to where everything is leading to.

There is so much going for this book and it is such an addictive read.  I really would recommend you giving this series a try.  If you love a good, gritty crime then why not add it to your holiday reading list?

Thank you to Alainna at Quercus Books for sending me a copy in return for an honest opinion.  You have certainly introduced me to a world of reading I didn’t know existed!

My final word: Mysterious.

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