Checkmate // The Row by J.R. Johansson

Checkmate // The Row by J.R. JohanssonThe Row by J. R. Johansson
on October 11th 2016
Rating: three-stars
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Law & Crime, Family, Parents, Mysteries & Detective Stories
Pages: 352
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Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent. Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders. He takes it back almost immediately, but she can’t forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.

Last year I read and absolutely loved J.R. Johansson’s book Cut Me Free. It was amazing, one of my favourites of the year, in fact, so I was pretty excited to hear about The Row, and even more excited when I was picked to take part in the blog tour! The Row is one of the most compelling books out there – and with series like Making a Murderer and Serial, being imprisoned for a crime you may or may not have committed seems to be all the rage, and such is the case for Riley, whose dad has been incarcerated since she was 6, but denies he actually murdered the women he was convicted of murdering. With his execution set, Riley is determined to figure out the truth once and for all.

This book honestly surprised me. It was very Southern (something I wouldn’t usually notice, but it was very proud to be set in Texas, it seemed) with all the Mama and Daddy, from Riley, and the quite obvious fact Texas is a state that still has the death penalty, which is a debate for another matter (especially since 30 or 31 other states has the death penalty – some with a firing squad, which actually terrified me on looking. Note to self: never, ever, go to the capital punishment page on Wikipedia again). And there were parts where I wanted it to hurry along now, because I was desperate to know who really killed those women and what would happen to Riley’s dad, but mostly it was such a good book.

Taking apart the fact Riley’s dad is a potential (convicted) murderer, I kinda liked their relationship. It kind of gave him some kind of humanity, when you were never quite sure what was real and what was fake. And I liked that Riley was determined to figure out the truth, no matter what, and I really liked Jordan. They made quite the pair, detecting away, trying to sort through all the truths from many, many years ago. My favourite character, though, was Mr Marsters. I’ll confess to worrying he was the culprit for a hot second, but apart from that hot, hot second, I loved everything about him. The way he didn’t lie to Riley, the way he helped her, the way he was a father figure in the absence of her actual father, he really made an impression and that was so sweet.

The Row honestly left me questioning everything I thought I knew. But the ending was so satisfying, and unexpected, but it really worked. It wasn’t what I expected in the slightest, which is always great, because you can really ruin a book like this if you can guess the ending. Me, I was on the edge the whole time. J.R. Johansson is a fantastic writer, who had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.


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