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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Love A Good Mystery: A Review of Payback by Nancy Allen

Updated: May 3, 2023

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


Special hello to Austria today. I haven’t seen you appear in my analytics before and it’s nice to see you. I hope you have a marvelous time here at RHRML. Go follow RHRML on social media as well. We’re on Twitter and Instagram, @RHRMLBlog and @ReadingHasRuinedMyLife respectively, we have a good time there. I post book news, Books&Lewks, you get to see what I’m currently reading, how far behind I am on my 2023 reading goal, sometimes I post memes; we have fun.


Bears waving.
Hope everyone is having a great day.

As promised, I have a special review for you today. Today’s review is brought to you by Novel Suspects Insider’s Club; they aren’t paying me for my review they just sent me the book for free. Thank you to Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of today’s read, I love it when you send me books.


So, Hannah, what are you reviewing today? You haven’t introduced the book yet. All you’ve done is plug your social media accounts. Thanks for asking, Dear Reader. Today, we are covering a book set to release on May 16. Please welcome to the stage Payback by Nancy Allen.


Book cover of Payback by Nancy Allen.

Let’s get to the synopsis now. As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I also must issue a content warning. This novel does deal with substance abuse. I’d argue that this topic can be avoided but it does pop up seemingly randomly. Just be aware of this when you go in. Now let’s get to the synopsis.


Payback is the second entry of Nancy Allen’s Anonymous Justice series and picks up where the last one left off. At least that’s what I assume. Full disclosure, I’ve never read the other Anonymous Justice novel. I’m going in blind here, besties! Anyway, our story opens with one of the villains of the previous novel, Whitney Novak, getting out of jail. Then we have a hard cut to our main character, Kate Stone, leaving her Florida vacation early.


Exposition time! Kate Stone was previously a member of a vigilante justice group that masqueraded as a support group. The group did a lot illegal things in the name of good. Then Kate went after a man by the name of Ian Templeton. Ian Templeton is very, very wealthy. Like supervillain level of wealthy. He’s so wealthy that you question why world hunger hasn’t been solved. It’s because he’s a supervillain, that’s why. Anyway, he’s evil and was/is running a Ponzi scheme and Kate is hellbent on sending him to jail. Before she can do that though, a handful of members from her “support group” try to kill her. Spoiler alert for the first entry, she was pushed onto the subway tracks. Needless to say, Kate lives, most of those other group members involved are arrested, and Templeton gets away. Tragic. But Kate is back on the case!


Back to the plot of Payback, Kate is back in New York City. She’s gonna make sure Whitney and the others stay in jail/are arrested, she’s going to get Rob (another member of the support group but this time a friend) out of jail, and she’s going to take Ian Templeton down. It’s a long, hard list if we’re being honest here. Naturally the bad guys can’t stay in jail, people are playing double agents, Kate is questioning who she can trust, for lack of a better word she's becoming increasingly unhinged, and oh yeah, she’s being followed by multiple people.


I haven’t even touched on the cryptocurrency aspect or the fact that during all this she’s also solving the mystery behind her father’s death.


Khloe Kardashian saying, "there's a lot going on right now."

So the TL;DR on the cryptocurrency is Ian Templeton is behind it so you know it’s 100% a scam seeing as he’s our main villain. It’s obviously how Kate’s going to bring him down. I will not get into this part of the plot in my review, but since I had to learn about cryptocurrency whilst reading this book so do you. As for the death of Kate’s father, I won’t bring this part up again either but more so because of spoilers. Both this aspects are pivotal to the plot so they bear mentioning. I just couldn’t fit them into the main synopsis. Now that you know a little bit about Payback, let’s get to the review proper.


I want to begin with the lore. As mentioned, I’ve never read the other Anonymous Justice book. I went into this blind. All I knew was the stakes were high. Lowkey a good place to drop in. Nancy Allen did a good job at giving me all the exposition I needed to understand what was going on. I understood the relationships between characters, and the general backstory and lore necessary to comprehend what was occurring in the latest novel. For the most part all this was solid.


Thumbs up boy.
I give it one thumbs up.

Until the end. For the vast majority of the book, I didn’t feel like I was missing something regarding backstory or character relationships. Everything was easy for me to follow. Then came the final showdown. It was like a switch got flipped. While I knew all the characters involved and their motivations, something was missing. I just felt lost. Things were being revealed, important things, and I didn’t understand their importance. What should have been a satisfying ending was not. And this was a problem simply because I’ve never read the other book the Anonymous Justice series. I’ve looked at a few other reviews from people who have read the first book, and people seem to be satisfied with the ending. So I guess don’t be like me. Read the first book before this one.


I’m not going to dock points for this. The above is a me problem, not the book’s problem although I feel it bears mentioning. Also, I don’t give starred reviews on my site so I don’t know why I’m talking about docking points. I shall give the book points in its favor for the following though. There is a really good, gory scene. Spoiler alert, heads will roll. I wasn’t expecting it but I did like it. Ten-out-of-ten.


Woman clapping.
Love me some good gore.

And finally, I wish to talk about the characters. Namely our protagonist Kate Stone. Kate is hot-headed, sarcastic, athletic, and intelligent; basically everything you want in a thriller protagonist. To this I say: boring! Kate is a little basic when it comes to thriller protagonists. I enjoyed her sarcasm, but she’s not different from the countless other heroines out there. I think we can all name another mystery, thriller heroine who is sarcastic, intelligent, and has familial issues. She’s a dime a dozen. There’s nothing setting her apart from the countless other main characters out there.


Now this wouldn’t be a problem to me had the side-characters not been so good. All the side-characters felt more relatable and realistic to me. Their personalities felt more fleshed out. There were pros and cons to all of them while Kate seemingly fit the mold as to what a thriller protagonist should be. I just want a little something more from Kate is all.


Elmo shrugging.
Kate is truly meh

Overall, this was a decent read. I was pleasantly surprised by it and am glad I received a copy. I don’t think I would have gravitated towards it otherwise, but it was all around a good read.


And with that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you once again to Novel Suspects Insider’s Club and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of Payback. I greatly appreciate that someone out there wants to send me books. Thank you again so much. I shall see you again next week with another special review.


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.


Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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