Rachel Howzell Hall
In this original, clever thriller, Mickie Lambert is a digital archeologist who catalogs items and stories for clients. When her latest client dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors her wish to curate these objects and soon discovers something odd.
Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain―twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.
But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.
It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One that might, Mickie fears, be inescapably entwined with her own.
These Toxic Things is a clever, slow-burn murder mystery that highlights the relationships people cultivate and the objects that represent those interactions. The premise of this book was imaginative and stayed away from typical genre tropes.
I found These Toxic Things to be an interesting, solid mystery but a bit lacking in execution. A lot of things were happening in this book that made it complex in a way that kept you guessing who the murderer was. This also allowed for more than one twist in the storyline. I did figure out one of the major twists rather early on, but this did not take away from the overall reading experience. I will mention that the way the big reveal at the end is executed was a little convoluted.
My biggest issue with These Toxic Things was the family drama storyline that felt like it divided the book into two separate plots. For me, this storyline was unnecessary and caused both storylines to be underdeveloped. It almost seemed like Rachel Howzell Hall realized she needed to develop the protagonist after the fact and tried to make things happen in her personal storyline to do that. It left things a bit disjointed, including the development of the main character. I think it is worth mentioning that I have not read any of Rachel Howzell Hall’s other books, and this may just be a facet of her style.
I want to mention one last thing that I read in numerous other reviews. (White) People seemed to have a problem that Rachel Howzell Hall identified characters by race and capitalized Black (but not white). Ugh. They may not be use to seeing this because they are reading books by white authors who do not feel the need to identify white characters, because it is sadly assumed. It is frustrating that people rated this book poorly because of these things.
Overall, I enjoyed These Toxic Things and will be reading more by Rachel Howzell Hall in the future. I recommend this book so long as you are not looking for a fast-paced thriller.
These Toxic Things
Mysteries & Thrillers
September 1, 2021
Note: I received a gifted copy of this book from Book Sparks as part of their 2021 Fall Reading Challenge book tour. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.