ng>Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A lifetime of deceit, despair and dereliction…”

It’s been an absolute thrill to finally read the third and final book in this series! I read the previous two books back in 2020, and even though it’s been so long, it was so easy to jump straight back into the messy and unpredictable lives of Abbie and Joe. The third book is probably the most thrilling and suspenseful (with plenty of drama too!) I’m so happy to be sharing my review for The Depths Of Deceit, and also pretty sad the series has ended!

About the book:

As Jesse recovers in hospital, he’s riddled with paranoia, and with good reason. Those he thought he could trust have betrayed him in the most despicable way, so who’s left? There’s confusion about where the blame truly lies, and visits from Joe serve nothing more than further uncertainty, but it’s too late to tamper with testimony, and debating culpability could exacerbate Jesse’s delicate position.

Chaos and devastation return as Joe struggles with Abbie’s absence once more, but this time it could be permanent. With limited options, he enlists the help of his greatest adversary, and a mutual understanding paves the way for the easing of hostilities and hope for Abbie’s return. Joe’s bond to his cousin assumes a more significant position, but not before the true colours of duplicity are discovered and unexpected appearances add unsettling complexities. Too many secrets, too many lies, but who can you trust when obsession veils the truth?

The beginning

I had a quick read through my reviews for the first two books in this series before I began book three (A Proclivity To Prurience and The Course Of Conviction) and everything came flooding back; the exceptional characters with so much going on in their lives, the dark and disturbing plot and the pure beauty of each and every sentence the author writes. It also reminded me of how book two ended, and just how desperate I was to read the third! The book opens with the most nail-biting scene between two very significant characters in the series, and already, I sensed danger. I knew this book would be the most thrilling of the series, and with how the books have gone so far, I couldn’t predict what these characters would encounter, nor could I say for sure who would be safe. The author captured my attention instantly, just as I expected, and I was incredibly excited to hear more about Abbie, Joe, and everyone else involved in their lives – how far would things go this time?

Abbie is in deep trouble for something she was suspected of doing back in book two, and it’s up to Joe to get her out of this mess. I really enjoyed following Joe early on in the book; the emotions he feels were passed onto the reader so well, and even though what Abbie was accused of was unforgiveable, I did feel like I wanted to get her out of trouble. It’s one of the many things I loved about the series; you find yourself rooting for the most surprising kinds of people! The main characters are unpredictable and messy (though not in creation, they’ve been created so so well!) and I feel any writer should read these books just to see this kind of character done right. Even though Joe is hard at work with a plan to save Abbie, he’s still the same sex-obsessed guy he’s always been, and he desperately craves something to get him by. This time, he gets what he needs from someone I never expected, and yes, the book is pure filth just like the two books before it, if you were wondering!

“No matter the outcome, she had destroyed lives, loyalties and repute, and nothing could counter that.”

It was great to finally see the turn of events from Abbie’s point of view, and I really liked how the story was told between both of these main characters. The author’s flawless description captured Abbie’s thoughts and feelings with ease and even though she was in a pretty bad situation and felt scared, lonely and undeserving of any help, I knew she was determined to be free and reunited with Joe, no matter the cost. The author revisits some important events and makes readers relive everything that happened with Jesse, and even her son back in book one, and some of this information was crucial to understanding the position Abbie was in. However deep in trouble she was, I felt optimistic about the situation and its outcome, and I loved how certain characters worked together to problem solve and make things right. Would Abbie and Joe’s relationship still be the same after all this? And how much would Jesse make their lives hell?

Being a lover of the crime genre, I really enjoyed scenes involving a police interview or interrogation! It felt like the author was really showing off what she could do here and it made for very impressive reading. I think she could write any genre perfectly! These scenes ramped up the excitement and suspense, and I just craved more of them. Matt acting as Abbie’s lawyer was a brilliant addition to the storyline, and given their brief history, I wondered whether anything would happen between the two if their defense was successful, and it seemed Joe had these same thoughts. The opening to the book didn’t waste any time in getting readers back into the action and the drama, and with so many characters on my radar, it was difficult to know who could be trusted at this stage. I liked thinking about the different possibilities, the outcomes for those who held secrets close and just how Joe would save the woman he’d always been obsessed with.

The middle

I really enjoyed the ‘solving a mystery’ feel in the book here. There were enough characters involved to make you think, but not so many that it became hard to follow. The balance was well written and exciting. The author has also allowed readers to get deep into Abbie’s mind in this book, so deep that we can feel just how the whole ordeal has affected her, both physically and mentally, and makes us realise that even though she may be out of the woods right now, what’s happened is far from over. Instead of making us feel joyous about this little win, I instead only felt more curious, like there was more impending danger to ramp things back up again. However, herself and Joe finally get the time and space to reconnect which became a little beacon of light for them both in such dark times. In many ways, I felt these characters had matured, but they still had fun whenever they felt the urge which stayed true to the theme of the series!

There’s more drama between a bunch of characters, and of course, Joe is at the centre of it all. A certain conversation between himself and Abbie, where he tells her everything and stands up for himself was quite eye-opening. Their relationship is like no other, each of them having done wrong, but each of them accepting the other for who they are, as well as all the baggage that comes with them and any future risk of infidelity (which, let’s face it, is probably likely). The book feels like an absolute rollercoaster in many places; just as danger begins to subside and anger between certain characters isn’t as strong, the storyline picks up again and has you holding onto the edge of your seat. We’d seen what some characters were capable of already, but I could sense that there was going to be even more drama in the second half of the book. There was one character that I couldn’t wait to revisit, and I knew Abbie and Joe’s journey forward would be far from easy.

“It just doesn’t stop, ever. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to wake up without the burden of what the day’s going to bring, because I know it’s going to throw something at me, something unexpected or something added to the shit it’s already dealt me; how much more?”

As well as getting to know Abbie and Joe so well through reading their points of view, I loved switching to other characters, such as Jesse, Rose and even Joan, to see their own views on certain events and what they’re thinking. It was great how one minute you could feel intense hatred towards a character, and the next, you could feel some sort of sympathy or forgiveness… or vice versa! That’s just another thing this author does so well and there are so many scenes that just stick in my head. A lot of these scenes felt like I was watching an episode of a soap; affairs, babies, grudges, arguments, you name it. But all these. events kept the book exciting and addictive consistently. What really piqued my curiosity here was the appearance of a mysterious man, someone who seemed to be watching Joe and Abbie from afar, someone who Joe says looks suspiciously like his father. His dead father… Who was this guy and what did he want? Would he bring more danger?

From the start of the book, Joe’s grandmother, Joan, was a stand out character, and even though she’d just played a minor character in the series up to now, she really becomes quite important in this third and final book for many reasons! I found this part of the book quite heavy, but I loved the challenge; building bridges, making amends and simply doing what needed to be done to get justice and to bring one person down was certainly suspenseful and gripping! There was a very strange ‘incestual’ scene in this part of the book which made me feel a bit weird – I wasn’t quite sure how weirder Joe’s relationships could go after this and I was getting to the point where I didn’t want to know! Hopefully, that was the last of it… saying this, I was still looking forward to seeing how the author ended the series and if Joe and Abbie could actually live a normal life after all their trauma.

The end

Joe has been through so much in his life, and it was really satisfying to see how he plans to put everything right. The author balances the danger and uncertainty surrounding Joe’s family matters with the happiness of Joe’s and Abbie’s future well, but there was something inside me that felt like this happiness would be short lived. I hoped I’d be wrong for their sake! It was good to take a break from the more full on scenes as the couple head out to pick out a very important piece of jewellery, and it was here in particular where I felt the love these two have for each other; it just radiates from each page! Of course, with such happy news, there was bound to be another sighting of Joan to bring the tone down, but I really felt like we were getting closer to a point where we could see Joe and Joan engage in conversation. And oh boy, what a scene that would be! I could sense a pretty explosive finale, and I still couldn’t predict how things would end!

I felt my anger really start to bubble when an excellent scene between Joe and Joan plays out. What she does and how she gets her own way shocked me, and even so close to the end of the book, more drama unfolds and more questions popped into my mind. It felt like we were repeating the opening events of the book with a different character here and in a different light; Joe did his best to save Abbie as she was arrested, and now it’s Abbie’s turn to return the favour and clear Joe’s name. But just how easy would that be with everything that’s gone on and with how much was up in the air? It was a great twist in events, and again, it shows the couple’s love for one another on a much deeper level. A clever direction for the author to take! And where do I start with Matt – we all need a friend like him to save us when we need them the most! This character really grew on me in this book. It wouldn’t be the same without him and everything he does for Joe and Abbie.

“The opportunity to announce his plans beckoned, and the euphoria still bubbling served as a cloak of security that Joan’s malice could never penetrate.”

It was clear the author wouldn’t end the final book of the series without one more epic scene including all the characters that have become something like friends to us readers, and characters that we know will cause a scene, and the author has done it incredibly well. There’s panic and uncertainty as Joe and Abbie come face to face with one character for the final time, and it seemed there was even more to learn about her still from a crucial character at this stage. The dialogue here and the overall feel I got with this confrontation was excellent, something that will stick with me for a while. With each chapter that passed, the author pulled something else exciting out the bag to keep us gripped until the very end, and my curiosity really began to get the better of me. Joe stands up once again to be the man both Abbie and Jesse need, and I was confident their issues would be ironed out with his guidance and leadership. It was a tense few pages; I loved them!

Learning the shocking truth about what happened to Joe’s mother was overwhelming, not only for Joe, but for me too! Everything I was desperate to hear in the final chapters was explained to us, which made so much of the series make more sense to me. There was also another huge secret revealed, one that created a really unique ending to the story and something to give us readers something to mull over. Once I’d finished that last page, I was thinking about it for quite a while, remembering past events and wondering what all this meant for the future of these characters! And of course, let’s not forgetting the (fictional) wedding of the year! The final sentence of the book was excellent, and I’m sure Abbie and Joe had some strong feelings about it… I would have loved to have seen their faces at this point! A great ending to the book, but in a way, it felt like the end of an era. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these characters over the last few years and from reading the author’s acknowledgements, I know ending the series was such a bittersweet moment for her too!

Overall thoughts

Cheryl Butler writes some of the most surprising books I’ve ever come across, and she balances an abundance of genres so effortlessly it’ll impress you no end. I enjoyed the first two books in this series a lot, and this third and final book is a brilliant end, filled with just the right amount of suspense, drama, and of course, obsession. Though explicit in many places, Butler’s plot in The Depths of Deceit combined with such fleshed out, life-like characters shine through so brightly, and her vocabulary is an absolute treat. I’ll never tire of reading her sentences! Characters will surprise you, your emotions will be tugged from pillar to post and you’ll end wanting to start the series all over again to try and pick up on small details you may have missed along the way. A truly excellent read. I really recommend this one (but please read the first two books beforehand!)

Huge thanks to the author, Cheryl Butler, for my copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase The Depths of Deceit for yourself over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for updates!

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