Sins & Needles - Karina Halle Reviewed at Red Hot Books

This book has been getting major buzz since being published early this year. I had put off reading it till now because I was warned about a major cliffhanger. I made a firm resolution to avoid cliffhanger books until the next book is out (Shooting Scars, book 2 in the trilogy, will be out later this month). I steadfastly avoided all posts and conversations about this book because I wanted to go in blind. I’m glad I did.

After a failed scam nearly catches up to Ellie Watt, the 26 year old con artist decides to return to her childhood home at her uncle’s house in California in hopes of regrouping and possibly going legit. Just being in the town dredges up old pains, from the embarrassment of her grifter parents getting busted and fleeing town without her to the awful memories of being bullied in high school.

As her disapproving uncle will only put her up for a few days, Ellie heads out to find a job. At the local coffee shop she runs into Camden McQueen, an old friend from high school who has transformed from the geeky goth kid she abandoned for the popular kids to a hot muscled tattooed sex on a stick. As is often the case in life, those high school emotional scars seem to continue to cause pains well into adulthood. Camden recognizes an opportunity for a little revenge and Ellie sees him as the means to get her the money she needs to move on. And… this is where everything starts to turn sideways. I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil it so I’ll just say everything goes wrong. While trying to evade the bad guys, Camden and Ellie are forced to rely on each and in doing so, old feeling are realized. Just when these two turn a corner, the book ends with a bang.

Ellie is the definition of dysfunction. Due to some mysterious scam gone wrong with her parents, Ellie’s leg is badly disfigured from an acid burn. She uses this hurt and anger as her emotional crutch against the world; like she has a running list in her head cataloging all the wrongs she’s suffered, from her parent’s abandonment to high school tormentors. The author was smart to include flashbacks because it went a long way to soften her hard edges. I found myself, at times, rolling my eyes at her stupidity. For being a grifter, she made some pretty basic mistakes that didn't make sense to me.

I felt a lot more sympathy for Camden. Throughout the book, past and present, he is unapologetic about who he is. He is abused by his father, berated by peers and cast aside by the one friend he had in the world. Still, the author slyly hints that Camden may not be all that he seems and that definitely has me intrigued.

Halle has set the reader up for a wild ride and I feel like the train is just gaining steam. If you enjoy darker stories with shady characters, I can easily recommend this book.

Rating: B+