Maddy Shaw learns the life-shattering news in the most horrific way: live on air. As the shaky phone recording pans over the terrible crash, she recognises her husband Simon’s car in the wreckage… He is critically injured, and she rushes to his side.
Detective Rachel Hart knows how it feels to have a loved one’s life hanging in the balance, and hurries to support her friend. Maddy is distraught about her husband’s accident, and Rachel decides to investigate. It’s not her case, but if she can give her friend answers, she will. But she soon realises Simon didn’t crash because he was distracted, or because a tyre blew. Someone made this happen. Someone who wants Simon dead…
After the discovery of a threatening letter buried in Simon’s diary, Maddy has to ask how well she knew her husband. Then a new victim is found – an old friend of Simon’s, a man he hasn’t seen in years. It seems a dark secret from their past has finally come to light… The killer has a list of targets, and they are dying one by one.
Rachel must race against time to protect her friend and find the murderer before another life is taken. But however fast she runs, it seems the killer is always one step ahead. And Maddy must decide if she wants the truth – even if it puts her in the killer’s path…
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Detective Rachel Hart series reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient backstory on the main protagonist, for this story be enjoyed without reading book one. DCI Rachel Hart is a dedicated and successful police officer, her emotional life is damaged by past experiences, which give her commitment and guilt issues.
The plot for this story is cleverly constructed, multi-layered, it introduces lots of characters, seemingly unconnected. The crimes are many, and escalating, as Rachel has to negotiate difficulties and loyalties in her personal and professional lives. The twists, keep you guessing. It seems solvable, until the end when you realise you only solved part of the puzzle.
All appears satisfactorily resolved until the story ends with an emotional personal tragedy for Rachel and a raises a question over who she can trust.
An excellent police procedural detective story, with a complex female lead detective and a well-thought plot, looking forward to the next book in the series.
Fran made the biggest mistake of her life when she had an affair with Ben. Both families live in the village of Oakheart; their children are friends. Fran’s guilt shadows her days. But it’s no more than she deserves, or is it? At least she’s managed to protect her husband, Hector, from the harsh truth.
But for how long?
Tessa has left her troubles in the past and now has the perfect life. Ben might have his faults, but his life has not been easy. They need each other, and Tessa will do whatever it takes to eliminate any threats to her marriage.
Threats from women like Fran.
A cliff overlooks a disused chalk-pit. The locals
call it High Heaven. It’s a place of secrets. And it’s where Oakheart newcomer
Maria died. When Fran discovers a link between Maria and Ben, disturbing
questions arise to which she has no way of knowing the answers.
Faced with an ultimatum from Tessa, time is running
out for Fran. She’s scared, every minute of every day.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This starts with a tragic event and then lapses into normality, which although slow-paced is essential world-building. Told from two points of view Fran and Tessa, you meet Fran first and realise her normal life is unbalanced with a few strange events. You don’t meet Tessa in any detail straight away, but when you do, immediately you realise she is not happy.
The suspense building is steady and relentless, you are constantly waiting for what something bad to happen. Fran appears to be a reliable protagonist, but she does have secrets she wants to keep hidden. Tessa has an agenda, but are past events really as she sees them?
The plot is clever, not too complicated, but effective. I guessed one of the twists early on, believing things are never as obvious as they seem, but the final twist is chilling.
A well-paced story of love, obsession and revenge in an everyday village setting.
I live in Brighton with my husband
and a tabby cat called Chester. After a career in public sector admin, most
recently at the University of Brighton, it was time to stop dreaming about
being a writer and actually do something about it! Fast forward to the present, and now I’m both
traditionally published and self-published, with five women’s fiction novels
under my own name, and five ‘cosy’ reads, writing as Zara Thorne. I’ve also published a book of short stories,
most of which were previously published in The People’s Friend magazine. ‘The
Wife’s Revenge’ is my first foray into the psychological suspense genre.
best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.
Becky Morgan’s family were
the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.
The lone survivor of a
ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.
Twenty years later, with
the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But
the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening
up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.
Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.
So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.
The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.
Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.
Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize. TwitterFacebook
Avenging Angels – Pat Black
In The Family,
we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding
the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for
dead when she was just a girl.
Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear,
and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.
She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…
Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern
tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to
define our times for future generations.
She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.
Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.
She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a
genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an
ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before
you can finish shuffling the pack.
The end justifies the means for Salander, whether
that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s
life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of
violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re
always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”
Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of
several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and
this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.
The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves
his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose
their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes
despises this villain.
That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman
who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into
Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps
on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an
early grave after exposing her secrets.
“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool
again and again. “And that!”
I never forgot that savagery after first reading the
story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the
last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above
But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at
point blank range.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
No, he definitely will not.
Goodness me, everyone
gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or
two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a
biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic
Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s
debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the
heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home
for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.
Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie
is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school,
imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies,
both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie
White, with their own tragic fates.
Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending.
There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town
shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a
gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she
might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply
cannot allow that.
And then… Blood and fire.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No.
But, you notice something here? These were all written
by men. So…
Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short
stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother,
keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has
invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal,
loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.
There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.
There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.
In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to
glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on
new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get
even with Bobbo.
There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.
Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that
she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her
creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience
of being dead.
The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence
after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her
best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.
Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.
This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.
Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.
If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.
Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour
Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?
I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.
The Liars was most keenly inspired by the
phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive
environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and
witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the
industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure
flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a
brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman
in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and
you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists,
and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?
quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of
shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit
of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you
behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic
version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by
something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction:
amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and
entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to
read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual
tastes if they come highly recommended.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in
some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing
involved in PR.
best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own.
There’s nothing quite like it.
worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping
that people will like it!
What are you currently writing?
be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work
on the third.
Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!
Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy
David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a
moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’
shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then
greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all
reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a
meeting? Without me?
green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now
David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard
or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had
struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed
through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes
on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would
that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the
outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t
fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it,
up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you
doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.
I hated that she had an office. I’d been at
the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an
area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed
like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.
knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes
of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it
was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could
scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch
together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d
been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died
and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost
every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers
between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in
every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both
up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her:
here I was. Fighting for my career.
didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.
everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The
news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said
matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated
everything being so public.’
could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.
she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been
affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went
fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.
I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.
– do you mind?’
words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened
its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had
Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling
twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn
an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my
what were you thinki—’
Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.
Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.
An abrupt change; a new friendship; a dark secret…
Kind-hearted Violet has never fitted in, but despite being bullied at school is now content. She is dating ambitious Lenny, has her dream job in publishing and runs a book club at the local retirement home.
However, when her relationship with Lenny begins to falter, Violet, hurt and alone, seeks the advice of her new flatmate, Bella. She changes her image and with her head held high aims to show that she doesn’t need Lenny in her life to be happy and successful.
Her long-term friends Kath and Farah worry about Bella’s influence and slowly Violet starts to distance herself from them. When she was a child, her closest confidant and companion was a boy called Flint. Her mother didn’t approve of their closeness and he suffered a terrible end. She won’t let the same thing happen to Bella, no matter what anyone says…
Knowing You is about friendship and knowing who to trust with your deepest secrets; it’s about taking control of your life and not being afraid to stand out.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Violet has a career she loves, and a relationship that she is happy with, the first part of this story follows her life as a children’s book editor, which is interesting, she has lots of friends mostly older than her, but they value her friendship as she does theirs.
The present-day narrative is broken up with stories from Violet’s childhood, and a particularly momentous event that takes place and effects the young girl deeply.
It’s impossible not to feel empathy for Violet as a child, and to admire what she achieves as an adult. Then something happens to change her outlook on life and the secrets of her past resurface in a dangerous adult version.
This story is beautifully written. Violet is a lovely character and you want her to realise that beauty comes from within and that she doesn’t need the opinion of others to validate her. I loved the sincerity and the easy flow of this book, it’s easy to read but it makes you think. The characters are believable, as are their motivations and actions.
Even though you may guess what is happening, you are never sure until the end. The full impact of Violet’s story resonates, and it’s a poignant and powerful message.
A curious mix of revenge fiction and family drama, this story will hold your interest until the last page.
When Kimber Hannon returns home from a work trip, she’s ready to kick back and relax on the sofa. But on reaching the front door, she is shocked to discover that her key no longer works and there’s a man in the bedroom window.
Kimber calls the police, but the intruder tells them he’s renting the house. Her neighbour corroborates his story and it is Kimber who is forced to leave. But before she does, the stranger whispers ‘I was there. I saw what you did.’
These words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. Her trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her home. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life – and destroy it.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder& Stoughton – Mulholland Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story starts off with a past tragic event and then switches to the present day, where Kimber returns home from a weekend away to find her locks have been changed and someone is in her house. It seems her past has returned to haunt her. Whilst there are many suspenseful scenes and some mind games, this doesn’t have the impact and underlying menace of a true psychological thriller.
It does have an unreliable protagonist, who is so flawed it’s difficult to find her redeeming features. As the story progresses and her secrets are revealed, her motivations are clearer and you realise she hates herself, and all her subsequent actions stem from this.
As a family drama, this is cleverly crafted with dysfunctional relationships, guilt and secrets everywhere, but despite the comparisons, this isn’t like ‘The Girl Before’ or ‘ You Let Me In’. They are menacing to read. This is suspenseful and tangled, but not as difficult to unravel.
If you are looking for a suspenseful read with layers of family and friendship drama, this is worth reading.
A contemporary revenge novel, that has a multi-layered plot, an authentic setting and complex characters. There is an underlying undercurrent of menace in this story as Holly’s career and life are threatened, but will anyone believe her?
It’s easy for the reader to believe in this storyline, most people who have worked in an office setting have witnessed office politics at some point in their career, and it’s not hard to imagine what Holly experiences. Betrayal is an important theme of this story, and it adds impact to the injustices she suffers because Holly is betrayed by someone she should be able to trust.
Although the action is focused on a few characters, the vibrant setting, and the fast pace make this page-turning, as you want to see what happens next and who will come out the victor. In addition to the main plot, there are parallel friendships, which showcase what good friends really are. Holly’s relationship with her daughter is nicely written and emphasises why her career is so important to her.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK-Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.