Thursday, October 28, 2021

Litani by Jess Lourey

by Jess Lourey
Published October 19, 2021 by Thomas & Mercer

The Amazon Charts bestselling author of Unspeakable Things and Bloodline explores the darkness at the heart of the rural Midwest in a novel inspired by a chilling true crime.

In the summer of ’84, fourteen-year-old Frankie Jubilee is shuttled off to Litani, Minnesota, to live with her estranged mother, a county prosecutor she barely knows. From the start, Frankie senses something uneasy going on in the small town. The locals whisper about The Game, and her mother warns her to stay out of the woods and away from adults.

When a bullying gang of girls invites Frankie to The Game, she accepts, determined to find out what’s really going on in Litani. She’s not the only one becoming paranoid. Hysteria burns through the community. Dark secrets emerge. And Frankie fears that, even in the bright light of day, she might be living among monsters.

4 Stars

Another profound, well-written novel from Jess Lourey, the new queen of secrets. Litani is Jess' first novel based on a true crime, but like her other works it takes place in a small Minnesota town. Frankie, our narrator, is just 14 and she's experienced plenty in her life. She's thrust into her mother's home after her father's passing, but her mom doesn't hold her with warmth, rather she warns her of the adults. Only play with children, stay out of the woods, don't go near any adults. Except there are whispers in this town, stares, and a pack of children playing something called The Game that Frankie can't help but notice sounds more bad than good. A natural detective, Frankie resolves to find out just what's going on in Litani.

Jess Lourey writes Frankie with a proud, loud voice and the strength of Wonder Woman. She guides you through this book with incredible detail and feeling. There is no way to read Litani and not be impacted. This one is sad, it's dark, it's hard to read, but Frankie's voice is there with kindness and youth and a form of vulnerability that keeps the novel from sinking too deep into the bad stuff. She trudges through the hard stuff with you, fighting for the truth and looking for the good, willing to give chances to anyone, except maybe herself. It's a coming-of-age within a mystery in a town that darkness holds onto.

This is not a thriller and I wish I'd had some sort of warning going into the book that there would be things that affected me on a personal level. I have to admit I think this one is billed incorrectly. Litani is a dark drama, a book that holds a mystery and secrets that impacts every child within the pages. It's a sad story, but also a story of strength and a story based on true crime. For me, unfortunately, it's a story that I relate too much to and I had a really difficult time reading it. This one gave me nightmares and while I acknowledge it's written incredibly well, I went in for a thriller and that is not what I got.

Jess Lourey continues to show readers that she can really write, giving us not one, but two incredible novels in the span of a single year. Litani is not the thriller that Bloodline is, but it is a novel that will stay with you in a different way. I'm glad I pushed on through this one, I really did enjoy it, I just think it is one of those books were a warning might be necessary.


  1. Wow, excellent review Carlene. I am not familiar with this author, but I will be checking out her books, they sound fantastic and right up my alley.

    1. Thank you so much, Carla! I think you’ll really like her books, Bloodline is my fave!


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