thriller

‘Now You See Her’ by Heidi Perks #FridayReads #BookReview #Thriller

now

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Charlotte is looking after her best friend’s daughter the day she disappears. She thought the little girl was playing with her own children. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second.

Now, Charlotte must do the unthinkable: tell her best friend Harriet that her only child is missing. The child she was meant to be watching.

Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again.
Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.

Someone is hiding the truth about what really happened to Alice.

I really like the idea behind this novel. Charlotte is looking after Alice for her friend – something Harriet never usually allows. Alice is nervous, timid, shy, a bit like her mum. Charlotte, on the other hand, seems confident, sociable, the opposite of Harriet.

She takes her eyes off Alice for a few minutes – and Alice is gone.

This is the part of the novel that really interested me – Charlotte’s reaction, her guilt and distress. We can all imagine how dreadful we would feel, and the way Charlotte reacts is portrayed really well. And Harriet’s reaction too is really convincing. It would be so hard to forgive someone in those circumstances. That’s the stuff of a really gripping tale.

But that’s not what this story is. There’s more to Alice’s disappearance than meets the eye. And that’s where, for me, the story fell down. Without giving too much away, when the ‘twist’ was revealed, I was left feeling a bit confused, because the character’s story up until then, her reactions and emotions, hadn’t led to this. And while it’s the mark of a good twist that you’re shocked and surprised, then there’s the dawning realisation when you think back on what you’ve read and remember little things that pointed to this all along. For me, that was lacking, and so the twist didn’t work.

It’s well-written, and the author can obviously write. It’s just a bit disappointing.

three stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

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‘Everything Is Lies’ by Helen Callaghan #bookreview #FridayReads #psychological #thriller

Everything

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What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born? 

Sophia’s parents lived quiet, ordinary lives. At least she thought so, until she came home to discover her mother hanged, and her father in a pool of blood.

Sophia is certain her mother didn’t try to kill her father – but clearing her name will draw Sophia deep into a past she never imagined.

A past that hides a dark and twisted secret . . .

Because if everything you’ve been told is lies, then how dangerous is the truth? 

Sophia has escaped the boredom of her childhood home and is living in London, working as an architect. Her mother, who she recognises has issues, bothers her constantly, and as the novel opens, she calls Sophia when she is out with her new colleagues, asking her to come home. Irritated, Sophia refuses, a reaction she’ll come to regret, because her mother has been hiding a huge secret for years, and nothing about her quiet, reclusive parents is what Sophia thought it was.

There’s loads of mystery here, and intrigue, and lots of twists and turns, all centred on a book Sophia’s mother was writing about her past. Sophia reads the first two parts of the manuscript and discovers her mother was part of a cult headed by a rock star. But the third part is missing and it seems that someone will go to any lengths to stop Sophia finding out exactly what it contains.

The clever part of this novel is that you often think you know exactly what has happened, and then something shifts, something new is discovered, and you realise you’re wrong, again. The plot is flawless, the writing tight, suspenseful and really well-paced. I really enjoyed reading this – it was pure escapism. The only thing stopping me giving it five stars is that I just didn’t connect fully with Sophia. I didn’t feel her horror and grief at her mother’s death or her fear or shock when she begins to discover her mother’s past. But that doesn’t stop me recommending this book – if you like twisty, turny, well-written thrillers, then it’s definitely for you.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘The Confession’ by Jo Spain #tuesdaybookblog #bookreview #crime

confession

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Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?

The opening of this book is a lesson in how to hook your reader – and is also not for the faint-hearted. It’s shocking, but not gratuitous, and brings you straight into the drama.

Told form varying points of view, we follow Julie as she meets and marries Harry, realises he’s not all he’s cracked up to be, but finds herself unable to give him up. We also follow JP, his troubling past, and discover what has led him to this crime.

There is also Alice, the detective assigned the case, who  knows there’s more to it than others want to believe, but who is frustrated at every turn, by both JP and by Julie.

This is a very well-written book, and one that is much more than a crime novel. There is much here about the complexities of love, loyalty and jealousy, there is also a good dose of social comment (without being preachy) and enough drama to keep you turning the pages.

I did feel, however, that there could have been more detail about Harry and Julie’s early relationship. It’s all a bit vague – how did he become so successful exactly? And I wanted more about Alice too. She’s a great character, funny, clever and interesting and I felt that she deserved much more room in this novel.

I was also a little disappointed by the ending. It didn’t feel that realistic to me.

That said, this is a really enjoyable read.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘While You Sleep’ by Stephanie Merritt #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

sleep

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A house full of secrets…
The McBride house lies on a remote Scottish island, isolated and abandoned. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there. Last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.
A woman alone at night…
For Zoe Adams, the house offers an escape from her failing marriage. But when night falls, her peaceful retreat is disrupted—scratches at the door, strange voices—and Zoe is convinced she is being watched.
A threat that lurks in the shadows…
The locals tell Zoe the incidents are merely echoes of the house’s dark past. Zoe is sure the danger is all too real—but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

A remote Scottish island, a creepy house, the wind moaning, waves crashing, a terrifying legend and the kind of locals that all go silent when you walk into the pub – what more could you ask for?
Zoe is looking for peace and quiet and isolation so she can get her head together. A beautiful old house miles from anywhere seems ideal. But the house has a mysterious past and the locals are a bit cagey. Strange things begin to happen – but this isn’t bumps in the night and rattling chains; there’s a weird feeling in the house and Zoe’s dreams are vividly erotic and very unsettling.
But this is no Fifty Shades (thank goodness) and the sex is, on the whole, well-written. And what the writer does especially well is to weave a really suspenseful and at times terrifying tale. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the house, the isolation, the fear that Zoe feels are so well portrayed – you feel terrified for her.
I also liked the weaving of myth and history with the reality of the characters’’ present. It’s done really well, and there are two stories going on here, that of Zoe and that of Ailsa, the widow who died a century before. Ailsa’s story is fascinating – it could probably be a whole different novel in itself.
It’s truly a gripping read, well-paced, dark, but fun too if you like to be scared! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

four-and-a-half-stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

 

‘The Fear’ by C L Taylor #BookReview #FridayReads

the fear

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a gripping psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

This is the first of C L Taylor’s books that I have read so I wasn’t sure what to expect, although I had read a lot of good things about the book on Twitter.

The story is told from three points of view, Lou, Chloe and Wendy – this is a tricky thing to pull off, but the author does it seamlessly and each character has a distinct voice. The opening chapter works so well, really drawing you in. And straight away you’re invested in Lou, and her story. It was very easy to become very quickly engrossed.

Lou is understandably damaged, but her strength is obvious, even when she makes some pretty terrible decisions. Chloe is heart-breaking. All that teenage angst and isolation is so well portrayed here. And Wendy’s bitterness is well-drawn too, so authentic, and the little details about her garden and her beloved dog make her fully formed and believable.

There are some aspects of the plot where you do have to suspend reality, but the pace is so good and the story so compelling that it doesn’t really matter. And you want to get Mike as much as Lou does. My only gripe is that the ending seemed a little rushed, and perhaps a little too neat. But this is a great example of the genre – I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the copy for review.

‘Afterlife’ by Marcus Sakey #FridayReads #BookReview

 

afterlife

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Between life and death lies an epic war, a relentless manhunt through two worlds…and an unforgettable love story.

The last thing FBI agent Will Brody remembers is the explosion—a thousand shards of glass surfing a lethal shock wave.

He wakes without a scratch.

The building is in ruins. His team is gone. Outside, Chicago is dark. Cars lie abandoned. No planes cross the sky. He’s relieved to spot other people—until he sees they’re carrying machetes.

Welcome to the afterlife.

Claire McCoy stands over the body of Will Brody. As head of an FBI task force, she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. A terrorist has claimed eighteen lives and thrown the nation into panic.

Against this horror, something reckless and beautiful happened. She fell in love…with Will Brody.

But the line between life and death is narrower than any of us suspect—and all that matters to Will and Claire is getting back to each other.

From the author of the million-copy bestselling Brilliance Trilogy comes a mind-bending thriller that explores our most haunting and fundamental question: What if death is just the beginning?

This is such an interesting and unusual book. It begins the way many detective and crime thrillers begin and then it changes into something that seems to transcend genres. This is crime and fantasy and horror and romance all rolled into one.

At its heart is the relationship between Will and Claire, and how refreshing to have a strong, intelligent and realistic female lead. The reader is in their corner from the beginning, and when they lose each other, the grief and the sense of loss is beautifully and poignantly portrayed.

The writing is excellent, a joy to read. There is quite a lot of violence here, but, in my opinion, it isn’t gratuitous.  And the book is so clever and compelling. As someone with no belief in an afterlife, this is an interesting take.

My only criticism is that it felt overlong. But it’s an intelligent, different, imaginative and unusual book. Definitely recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘Everything You Do Is Wrong’ by Amada Coe #BookReview

everything

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Harmony’s teenage craving for drama is answered when a body is discovered by her aunt Mel on Evensand beach. But the naked, lifeless young woman turns out – problematically – to be alive. Unable to speak or remember where she came from, the woman is named Storm by her nurses.

Surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists and policemen, Storm remains provocatively silent. Harmony is desperate to fill in the gaps in Storm’s story, while the responsibility Mel feels for the woman she rescued begins to skew the course of her own settled life. Their efforts to solve the mystery clash with the efforts of rookie constable Mason, assigned to the case and determined to help this damsel he feels to be very much in distress.

Will any of them be able to find out who Storm really is? And what if the distress belongs to everyone but her?

Everything You Do Is Wrong is a compelling exploration of how this enigma sets a family’s good and bad intentions crashing into each other, with unforgettable consequences.

This is an interesting and unusual book, full of some wonderful imagery and description and some really clever little insights into people, places and situations that give the writing authenticity.

I found the descriptions of Evensand particularly well done and very evocative of a typical British seaside town out of season. The rain and the wind and the depressing greyness of it all came over very well. And little things like Harmony sneakily eating a KitKat in the library added to that.

I found it easy to warm to Harmony – while there were aspects to her character that verged on the stereotypical in places, her confusion and unhappiness came over clearly. I felt the hints around an eating disorder should have been more detailed – if she was suffering form something like this, it would have been a bigger aspect of her life, and if she was ‘playing’ with the idea for the sake of drama, then that too should have been developed.

I liked Mel a lot too, and it was nice to have a more realistic middle-aged woman in a novel. Too often they are either old before their time or impossibly perfect for their age – Mel was Mel, authentic, believable, kind and warm but with her own jealousies, and regrets.

I liked the subplot around Storm, the girl on the beach, and thought that the revelation as to how and why she as there was very unusual and made a refreshing change form the usual conclusions to these scenarios. It was a clever idea.

This is a slow burner – don’t expect fast-paced drama and lots of twists and turns. And there are places where I felt things could have been developed a bit further – Mel’s relationship with her husband and sons, Mason’s past, what compels the protagonists in the story behind Storm to do what they do, for example. But there’s some fabulous writing here. I really enjoyed it.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

‘The House’ by Simon Lelic #FridayReads #BookReview

the house

Amazon.co.uk 

Whose story do YOU believe?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

The blurb of this book makes it sound as if this is a creepy mystery, perhaps a crime involved, perhaps something more sinister and nasty. Well, there is a crime, there are sinister things going on, but it’s not what I was expecting at all. And that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

The novel takes us deep into the lives of Jack and Syd, and the dual narrative, switching from one to the other, really helps with this. I felt close to both characters, invested in both, and I cared about what happened to them. Both of them. This was conflicting at times, and confusing. But it kept me turning the pages.

Syd’s relationship with teenage neighbour Elise, who she identifies with so closely, is a strength of the book. There are some genuinely heart-stopping moments in this part of the narrative. And Syd’s back story was utterly heart-breaking; it was difficult to read at times, but that shows how strong the writing is in places.

The plot is a little confusing at times – you do have to work at this book, but that, I think, is part of its appeal. The protagonists are confused, and the reader is confused along with them. What lies behind the house, and their lives, is complex and twisted and surprising.

There were a few plot points that I found a little hard to believe in completely, and that’s why I can’t give this novel five stars. But it’s a really good read, gripping, complex, clever. Definitely recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free review copy.

‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

final girls

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FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or…

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.

I’m trying very hard to avoid all these books that have ‘girl’ or ‘girls’ in the title (we’re WOMEN ffs!) but I read this for two reasons. Firstly, it sounded brilliant and secondly, there’s a very good reason that it’s called ‘Final Girls’.

If you love horror movies you’ll know that the ’final girl’ is the last girl left standing once everyone else has been murdered. The term was coined by Carol J Clover in her 1992 book ‘Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film’ and in Sager’s book, Quincy, Sam and Lisa are ‘real’ final girls (in the reality of the book).

The main focus is on Quincy. She is the sole survivor of a horrific massacre carried out on a group of teenagers in a cabin (well, a cottage, anyway) in the woods. She can’t remember everything that happened that night, and she hates being associated with the other Final Girls. And she seems to be coping – she has a home, a successful and loving boyfriend, and she’s developing a food blog. She does take rather a lot of Xanax, and she also keeps in touch with Coop, a policeman involved in the case, but she’s trying to put it all behind her. Then Lisa dies, and Sam turns up. Quincy’s fragile façade starts to fall apart. She finds herself more and more influenced by Sam, and more and more drawn into what has really happened to Lisa, and what really happened that night at Pine Cottage.

There are so many twists and turns here. Just when you think you’ve solved the mystery, that you know what the twist is, you realise you’re wrong. It’s skilfully done and makes this a real page-turner.

The characters are all really well-written and very believable. I didn’t like Quincy all that much –but I didn’t find that a problem. She frustrated me at times, and I was practically screaming at her not to do the things she was about to do – but the fact that she provoked such a strong reaction goes to show how well she was written.

There are some really tense moments, and genuine shocks and surprises. It’s a really intense, gripping and enjoyable read.

Recommended.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy for review.

‘He Said/She Said’ by Erin Kelly #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

he said

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, four lives change forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, she also knows that you can never see the whole picture: something is always hidden… something she never could have guessed.

Kit is an eclipse chaser, something he’s been doing since he was a child. In 1999, he attends a festival in Cornwall with new girlfriend Laura to see an eclipse, which they watch together. Returning to the campsite, they see what Laura assumes is a rape. This incident impacts the rest of their lives together, and they become embroiled in a situation where no one really knows who’s telling the truth. And Beth, the alleged victim, won’t leave them alone.

The story flips between what happens at the festival and its aftermath and the present day – 2015. Laura and Kit are living under assumed names, terrified of their past catching up with them. Laura is pregnant with twins and Kit is about to set off to the Faroe Islands to see a last eclipse before fatherhood. We hear the story from both Laura and Kit, which works really well to set up the tension and to create an atmosphere where the reader doesn’t really know what, or who, to believe.

I did really enjoy reading this book. It’s a clever plot with a twist that is genuinely surprising. The characters are well-drawn and, unlike some other reviewers, I did warm to them, particularly Laura, and could definitely understand her motivations. It was a real page-turner.

However, there were a couple of things that didn’t really work for me. Laura and Kit keep referring to an incident in Zambia, after the alleged assault. It is hinted that something major happened. When this was revealed it was a real let down. And they also refer to a video online that is terribly upsetting for Laura. Again, it isn’t, and this is another let down. If things are built up like this, then the reader deserves something worthy of all that tension.

That said, this is a really good read. The author understands how to build tension and how to keep a reader engaged. I’d definitely recommend it.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review.