Imagine being the sole survivor of an incident at a frozen lake that claims your brothers in its icy depths. The emotional baggage and survivors’ guilt one would carry on a daily basis would feel insurmountable. Best Lightburn, the protagonist of Nicole Blades’ The Thunder Beneath Us (Kensington), has had to live with that guilt her entire life. She claims to be an only child to avoid discussion about her ill-fated brothers, establishes an enviable career at a style magazine and crafts a new life for herself in New York. But for Best, guilt permeates every element of her life and threatens to undermine all she has created.

In a work such as this, creating a heroine large enough for the story is absolutely imperative, and Blades delivers this in spades. What’s more impressive, however, is her expert hand at dealing with all the secondary and even tertiary characters. They are all vividly detailed and as vibrant as one could ever hope for. Even small characters become memorable, and that is a rare gift.

Crime fiction usually isn’t my genre of choice, but I couldn’t help but fall into this book and follow it along for the ride. I couldn’t help but feel for Best, even before I was fully invested in her journey. For example, early on in the story when she talks about her BFF Kendra, Best says “the full truth is, Kendra really doesn’t know anything about me. She doesn’t know this despicable brute walking around as her best friend. And in my mind, it’s better that way.”

To me, this is hugely telling. Kendra, Best’s best friend, definitely knows plenty about her, but Best sees the death of her brothers as not just a part of her identity, but the sum total of it. I wondered from very early on what journey Best could go on that would lead her to be able to let go of the past and to forgive herself for what happened. It was a journey I’m glad I took with her.

I was excited to start this book because Nicole Blades is a new author for me. Only a few pages in and I was thrilled to have her works land on my TBR. She has a brilliantly direct turn of phrase in dialogue that makes her work relatable paired with a graceful and unaffected narrative. Blades has a natural strength for characterization that is readily evident in every passage. She deals with the topic of survivor’s guilt in a deft way that will have readers like me clamoring to add Blades’ other works to their TBR piles. Highly recommended.

The Thunder Beneath Us is now available.


About Nicole Blades

Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, and journalist. She started at Essence magazine, later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health.

Nicole’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Marie Claire and BuzzFeed. Her latest book, Have You Met Nora?, is out now, along with her previous novels The Thunder Beneath Us and Earth’s Waters. Listen to her weekly podcast, Hey, Sis!, about women finding their focus and place in business, art, culture, and life. She lives with her husband, their son, and puppy in New England.