Posted in Cover Reveal, Psychological Thriller

#CoverReveal – The First Lie – A.J Park @OrionBooks @AJParkauthor @rararesources

The First Lie

We’ve all had sleepless nights thinking about it.
You’re home alone. Someone breaks in.
In defending yourself, you end up killing the intruder.
Now you’re the one the police want.

That is the situation that criminal barrister Paul Reeve arrives home to find.
His wife Alice stands in the bedroom, clutching a bloodied letter opener in her shaking hand.

“What have you done, Alice?”
“I didn’t have a choice…”

We would all believe the person we love most.
But would we all make the same choice Paul and Alice make next…?

Pre-order Links

UK – Amazon

US Amazon

Waterstones

After studying literature, linguistics and Spanish at university, AJ Park trained as an English teacher and actor. He has edited magazines and taught English, Media Studies and Drama in secondary schools in England. He was also a competitive fencer for seven years.

Social Media Links –

Twitter @AJParkauthor

Facebook KarlVadaszffy

Website www.karlvad.com

Advertisements
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

#BlogTour – Alice Feeney- I Know Who You Are – @HQStories @alicewriterland 5*#Review #Extract #Thriller

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

What a fabulously chilling ending this story has, I thought I’d worked it out but I didn’t see that coming.

‘I Know Who You Are’ is told from Aimee’s point of view, in the present day, with flashbacks thirty years previously to her childhood. The story is menacing and you experience everything Aimee feels.

Aimee is an unreliable protagonist because of the trauma she suffered in her past life, but she is easy to empathise, and I believed in her throughout the twists and turns of the story.

Abuse and control are the major themes of this story and shape Aimee into the person she is, preferring to act and assume a character rather than face the reality of her life.

Putting aside the suspense, mystery and plot twists, which are well-written, and have a powerful impact, there is also an ethos of sadness, loss and powerlessness that defines Aimee, and her story. It is this that resonates and makes her story believable.

Extract from: ‘I Know Who you Are’ – Alice Feeney

One

London, 2017

I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember where

from.

Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming

somebody else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise

in the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up

person. Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,

ready to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at

what is written on the dressing-room door:

AIMEE SINCLAIR

My name, not his. I never changed it.

Perhaps because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage

would only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name

only defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,

arranged in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a

lie. Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.

Someone else. A new name for a new me. The me I became when

nobody else was looking.

Knowing a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.

I think we broke us last night.

Sometimes it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the

hardest, because they can.

He hurt me.

We’ve made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be

broken in order to fix them.

I hurt him back.

I check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,

the way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,

never spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever

since I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of

others, hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;

we are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,

I walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.

Something very bad happened last night.

I’ve tried so hard to pretend that it didn’t, struggled to rearrange

the memories, but I can still hear his hate-filled words, still, feel his

hands around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen

his face wear before.

I can still fix this. I can fix us.

The lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.

It was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also

fought.

I walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving

my dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.

My steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately

delaying the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.

I did love him, I still do.

I think it’s important to remember that. We weren’t always the

version of us that we became. Life remodels relationships like these reshapes the sand; eroding dunes of love, building banks of hate.

Last night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and

I told him that I meant it this time.

I didn’t. Mean it.

I climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio

gates, steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,

hiding the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my

sharp edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,

his face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before

pulling away.

For me, acting has never been about attracting attention or

wanting to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do

anything else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel

happy. The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,

but that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.

Some people just want to be somebody else. Acting is easy, it’s being

me that I find difficult. I throw up before almost every interview

and event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I

have to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,

or in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.

Nobody understands who I really am, except him.

My husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My

success is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled

the start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I

was never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my

anxiety tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which

was kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing

something, you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or

break it again yourself.

I drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing

for real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in

the mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about

being forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told

I have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my

features, as though all the things they have seen made them swell

out of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert

fingers, not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing

requires me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget

to eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t

remember what she said about my performance.

It was a review of my first film role last year. A part that changed

my life, and my husband’s, forever. It certainly changed our bank

balance, but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound

success – it took me away from him – and I think he needed

to make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m

not who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted

less. He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the

same. He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too

tight, so tight that it hurt.

I think part of me liked it.

I park on the street and allow my feet to lead me up the garden

path. I bought the Notting Hill townhouse because I thought it

might fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But

money is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve

never felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in

the way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of

guilt and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the

way out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.

I let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,

vacant rooms.

‘Ben,’ I call, taking off my coat.

Even the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,

fake, foreign.

‘I’m home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to

describe this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never

chooses its own cage.

When I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our

bedroom, every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of

the night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of

our lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve

checked every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate

bouquet of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small

card attached to them; there’s just one word:

Sorry.

Sorry is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.

I want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.

I want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I

want to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before

we started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the

children I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.

I retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on

the coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere

without his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either

explode or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and

reveals a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see

more, but when I press the button again the phone demands Ben’s

passcode. I try and fail to guess several times until it locks me out

completely.

I search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This

isn’t a game.

Back out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where

he left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one

last time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall

must hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.

Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?

Denial is the most destructive form of self-harm.

A series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears:

Vanished. Fled. Departed. Left. Missing. Disappeared.

Then the carousel of words stops spinning, finally settling on the

one that fits best. Short and simple, it slots into place, like a piece of

a puzzle I didn’t know I’d have to solve.

My husband is gone.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Extract, Psychological Thriller

The Liars – Naomi Joy – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @naomijoyauthor #BlogTour #PsychologicalThriller #Office #Politics #Extract #AuthorInterview

Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

 Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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?

I 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?

I 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?

I 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.

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own. There’s nothing quite like it.

The worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping that people will like it!

What are you currently writing?

I’ll 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

‘What’s David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’

I 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?

My 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 anyone care?

In 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, too.

I got 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.

I 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: Team Head.

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

I didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.

‘Is 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.’

‘Jade, could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.

There 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 through together.

‘It’s just—’

‘We’re fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.

Before I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.

‘Jade – do you mind?’

His 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 desk.

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

I cut 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.

Twitter

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

The Evidence Against You – Gillian McAllister -5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @GillianMAuthor

Amazon UK

It’s the day Izzy English’s father will be released from jail.

She has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories.

But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.

Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial.

But should she give him the benefit of the doubt?

Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?


I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK- Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

You experience a gamut of emotions, as you progress through this story. The plot grips you and makes you keep turning the pages, but amidst the solidly based thriller, are the poignant reminders of something lost, and an ethos of gut-wrenching sadness.

Essentially, this is a story of human frailty, and how one incident can alter lives irreparably. The thriller has a psychological element because of the main protagonist Izzy, who desperately wants to believe what she sees and hears from the important people in her life, but can she?

The plot is cleverly written and plausible, for those who like solving mysteries, the clues are gradually filtered into the story, and it is possible to work out who has done what, but not easily. The story is complex and emotional, you empathise with Izzy and more importantly Gabe, even though you are not sure if he is telling the truth.

The characters are believable and have real depth, the story concentrates primarily on Izzy and Gabe, with historical flashbacks, from their points of view, but for this reader, there is no lessening of interest or skipping over details, it is all-absorbing and heightens the reading pleasure.

A riveting, realistic read for lovers of cerebral thrillers and human behaviour.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Without A Trace – Carissa Ann Lynch – 5* #Review @KillerReads @carissaannlynch #Thriller #DomesticThriller #Suspense #Mystery #PsychologicalThriller

Lily’s gone. 
Someone took her. 
Unless she was she never there…

A little girl has gone missing.

Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.

Has Nova’s abusive ex stolen his “little bunny” back for good?

At first, Officer Ellie James assumes this is a clear custody battle. Until she discovers that there are no pictures of the girl and her drawers are full of unused toys and brand new clothes that have never been worn…

Is Ellie searching for a missing child who doesn’t actually exist?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’ve read quite a few of this author’s stories and they usually involve domestic settings, with a mystery, and cleverly built suspense. The stories are dark and the characters are believable, but usually have secrets, which lead to outcomes most readers wouldn’t foresee.

‘Without A Trace’ is creepy and sinister, told from three main, first-person points of view. The psychological thriller is characterised by an unreliable protagonist. This story has three and accompanied by a plot full of twists, and misinformation. It is difficult for the reader to decide who to believe. What is the truth? What is fiction? Are the answers somewhere in between?

Domestic abuse is the primary theme of this story, it is the reason Nova runs. The twisty plot is always coherent, you can see where this story is going, but you don’t know what you will find when you get there.

The short chapters, providing viewpoints from the three main female protagonists, work well with this suspense led story. The reader has to wait to see what happens next to the character, whilst they are given additional facts and motivations from the other characters.

Poignant and dark this story has important messages, and the final events and resolution of the mystery are realistic and memorable.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

My Lovely Wife- 4*#Review – Samantha Downing @MichaelJBooks @smariedowning @BerkleyPub #thriller #crime #suspense #domestic #couple #wife

HOW WELL DO YOU REALLY KNOW THE ONE YOU LOVE THE MOST?

This is a story about a married couple. They met, fell in love, had two beautiful children. So far, so ordinary.

But they have a very dark secret.

It’s a story with a twist. And then another. And another.

You might think you’ve read stories like this before.

You’d be wrong.

By the end of the first chapter, you’ll be hooked.

At page fifty you might not sleep until you finish.

And when you turn the last page, you’ll ask yourself one question:

How well do you really know the person you love most?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

Compelling and sinister are the best adjectives to describe this story, about an ordinary couple who are anything but. If you are a regular reader of psychological and domestic thrillers, there is not a lot to shock you here, the sex and violence are implied rather than graphic, the reader is left to imagine what happens and that keeps you engrossed in the story.

The insightful story has cleverly layered suspense that draws you in. The surprise factor is that such unassuming,’normal’ individuals act in such an extraordinary way. What motivates their actions? Are they a product of nature or nurture?

The intelligently constructed plot twists keep coming. I did work out the later ones, but mainly because the characters are so well described, the reader can predict what they will do next. It’s an exhausting book mainly due to the level of character detail it contains, and the constant flashbacks to former experiences. 

‘My Lovely Wife’ makes the reader participate. It’s an active experience more than a passive read. It gives an insight into the minutiae of the family’s life, and you daren’t turn away, in case you miss something important.

A great fusion of psychological and domestic thrillers, with complex, enthralling characters who are so dark, you have to search for their humanity.

Kindle Book out now – Hardback out 2 May 2019

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Greenway – 4* #Review – Jane Adams #mystery #crime #psychological #suspense #detective @JoffeBooks @janeadamsauthor

AUGUST 1975: Cassie Maltham’s life changes forever one scorching day. She and her twelve-year-old cousin Suzie take a shortcut through the Greenway, an ancient pathway steeped in Norfolk legend. Somewhere along this path Suzie simply vanishes . . .

TWENTY YEARS LATER: Cassie is still tormented by nightmares, parts of her memory completely erased. With her husband Fergus and friends Anna and Simon, she returns to Norfolk, determined to confront her fears and solve a mystery that won’t let her rest.

Then another young girl goes missing at the entrance to the Greenway, and Cassie is pushed once more into the darkest recesses of her mind.

John Tynan, the retired detective who’d been in charge of Suzie’s case, is still haunted by her disappearance. He offers his help to Detective Inspector Mike Croft who is leading the increasingly frantic search for the missing child. Has evil returned? And what really happened all those years ago and who can be believed?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A well-written retro, psychological suspense mystery set in Norfolk.

Cassie is the link between two disappearances of young girls. Her cousin Suzie in 1975 and Sara in 1995, whilst Cassie is revisiting the area after twenty years, as part of her mental health rehabilitation.

There is a multi-layered plot, which encompasses many themes; myths and legends, supernatural occurrences, crime, mental health and police procedural. Some of these are explored in detail, like the day to day police activity surrounding the missing child, others like the supernatural elements, and Cassie’s mental state are hinted at but left to the reader’s imagination to decide what to believe.

Mike Croft the SIO in the case is an interesting character, he has a tragic past, which threatens to impinge on his decision-making capacity in the case. John Tynan, a retired detective who was SIO on the previous missing girl case in 1975, sees the similarities between the two cases, and he supports Mike and his team with the new case. His involvement ties up the historical, and present day elements of the story in a realistic way.

The plot twists are good and the final resolution solves the mystery. Some questions remain but, this is intentional, making this an authentic story, as in real life not every aspect of a crime or mystery can be solved in entirety.

I like the retro ethos of the story, it adds to the plot’s level of menace and the mystery. The complex characters, especially Cassie who is the unreliable protagonist in the story are believable.

Overall this fusion of genres works well and makes the story a compelling read.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

She’s Mine – Claire S.Lewis – #BlogTour- 4*#Review- #Author #Interview- #Extract @Aria_Fiction @CSLewisWrites

She was never mine to lose…

When Scarlett falls asleep on a Caribbean beach she awakes to her worst nightmare – Katie is gone. With all fingers pointed to her Scarlett must risk everything to clear her name.

As Scarlett begins to unravel the complicated past of Katie’s mother she begins to think there’s more to Katie’s disappearance than meets the eye. But who would want to steal a child? And how did no-one see anything on the small island?

Buy Links:

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is not what I expected. The first few chapters make you think certain events have occurred, and following on from this, the list of suspects is few, but then you are transported back to 1997, and what you discover there changes your perception of what happened on the beach.

The flashbacks are in a series of photographs which trigger a specific set of memories of the unknown narrator. The introduction of new characters seemingly unrelated to the event on the Carribean island, and initially cause confusion for the reader, but gradually the connections can be made and the puzzle starts to form a coherent picture.

Scarlett is an unreliable protagonist, she has past secrets, which reinforce her unreliability. She is also immature and easily swayed by the stronger, more mature personalities she comes into contact with. Costa is an unconventional investigator, they make an unusual but effective investigating team.

The characters are complex and all are flawed, keeping secrets, behaving instinctively, rather than with caution. Can the reader trust any of them for a truthful account?

The plot is intriguing, there are plenty of clues but these are countered by misinformation, so when you think you know what happened you don’t.

Surprisingly, I did work out the ending but this didn’t detract from the story.

A compulsive, psychological thriller, with well-crafted suspense and some clever twists, and an overriding poignant ethos, worth reading.

Claire S. Lewis – Author Interview

What inspired you to write this story?

She’s Mine started as a little exercise that I wrote on ‘setting’ for a beginner’s online creative writing course.  I chose a beach setting because I thought that would be a good way of using all the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – in the description.  You’re usually very engaged with your senses when lying on a beach!  To make it more interesting, I added the plot element of a nanny falling asleep on the sand and waking up to find that the little girl she was supposed to be looking after had disappeared. When I later took the Faber Academy course on writing a novel, I used this piece as the opening chapter for my novel draft which became She’s Mine.

What is the first thing you decide when writing a story, the setting, the plot or characters? Why do you think this is?

When starting a story, the first thing that gets me writing is the plot. Sometimes a conversation or a news item or something I hear on the radio makes me think, ‘that would be a great starting point for a novel’, or ‘if you put that into a novel nobody would believe it’, and from that scene or idea, I develop a plot.  Next, I imagine which characters would act out that plot and how they would interact with each other. And then I think about what would be an interesting or enticing setting or stage for those characters – usually, I like to pick locations that I know well and that I know I would love bringing to life in descriptions. So, in She’s Mine, much of the backstory is set in Oxford because I was a student there and it is a beautiful and atmospheric city that is still very vivid in my memory. I can easily wind back the clock and put myself in the place of my characters and imagine myself there, seeing and feeling it from inside their heads.

I think the plot interests me the most because I like the idea of setting up a puzzle and then gradually letting the readers into the mystery. The characters are there to act out the plot. I am also really interested in exploring devices such as the ‘unreliable narrator’ – like the nanny,  Scarlett, in She’s Mine. In addition, I enjoy playing around with changing narrative viewpoints so that the reader sees parts of the puzzle or mystery through one character’s eyes but has to read between the lines to work out the ‘truth’ that is eventually revealed when the narrative perspective changes to another character. I use this device a lot in my second novel. The plot is the starting point for all this.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters are mostly imaginary – which is lucky because they tend to be quite dark and complicated! Of course, in some cases, I draw on certain personality traits of people I know in real life, or perhaps not so much personality traits but ways of speaking and interacting with other people. After reading the first draft of She’s Mine, my teenage daughter said to me, ‘So Scarlett’s basically me!’ I wasn’t conscious of writing this (and they certainly don’t have the same characters!), but she recognised herself in Scarlett’s narrative voice! So far all of my male characters have been flawed – weak, vain, untrustworthy, and the like. I wouldn’t say this is a reflection of the men in my life! In She’s Mine, my anti-hero Damien was in part inspired by a particularly unpleasant man I spoke to very briefly at an event some years ago! Sometimes it doesn’t take much to light the spark of a character…

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love reading all sorts of fiction books as long as they are not too heavy or slow moving! Particular authors/books that I have loved since I was a teenager include Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby/Tender is the Night), Graham Greene (The Confidential Agent/The Power and The Glory), Nancy Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley). I think these books are brilliant because they are so beautifully written with such intriguing stories, charismatic characters and entrancing settings. I also love modern psychological thrillers such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Cry and You. My all-time favourite novel is Gone With The Wind which I devoured when I was growing up.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Before I had children, I was an aviation lawyer for Virgin Atlantic, but I’ve always loved reading and books, and always dreamt of writing a novel.  So after having been at home with the children for a few years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for some creative writing courses – both novel and screenwriting – to see if I could do it – then I got hooked. I love writing fiction because of the freedom it gives you to escape and get lost in other worlds. And I love psychological suspense because I find the psychological part fascinating – imagining what’s going on in other people’s minds – and the suspense part is so much fun to create because it’s what keeps us reading – the ‘what if?’ and ‘what next’ that makes us want to keep turning the page!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing another story in the genre of psychological suspense about a beautiful young florist with a tragedy in her past. It’s wonderful to write because I’m researching the world of floristry and flowers (as well as getting to grips with the workings of dating apps such as Tinder which I’ve never looked at before!). The plot revolves around stalking (no pun intended!) but it’s not clear who is the predator and who is the victim…

Thank you so much, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely blog, Jane Hunt Writer!

Extract

That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. What I don’t reveal to her is an incident that took place in Christina’s bedroom the week before we flew out to the British Leeward Isles. I don’t disclose it because the incident doesn’t put me in a good light either! On Tuesdays, Katie does a full day at kindergarten so I have a little time to myself. I’ve got into the habit of using Christina’s en-suite, luxurious, walk-in power shower and expensive beauty products following the weekly hot yoga class that I go to after dropping off Katie. So last Tuesday, I had just finished my shower and wrapped myself in Christina’s bathrobe when I heard her bedroom door opening and then the sound of her antique roll top desk being unlocked.

I thought she must have come back early from work for some reason. There was nothing else for it but to come clean (literally!) and apologise for taking the liberty of using her bathroom without asking first. So I took off her bathrobe, draped a towel around me and opened the door. But it wasn’t Christina. It was Damien with his back to me, checking the contents of the desk. Caught in the act. Hearing the catch he started and turned in alarm. He reddened but quickly composed himself and went on the offensive.

‘What a vision of beauty!’ he sneered as I stood there, my wet hair dripping onto the carpet. ‘I didn’t realise you and Christina were so intimate.’

‘And I didn’t realise you made a habit of going through her private papers!’ I snapped back. I know very well that the desk, an old family heirloom shipped over from the UK, is a strictly no-go area that she keeps locked at all times. He just laughed and then cool as a cucumber, he slipped some documents into a green cardboard file under his arm, locked the desk, pocketed the key and marched out of the room.

‘Just mind your own business and keep out of our affairs. Or you’ll be going the same way as the previous nanny,’ was his parting shot.

I understood this was no idle threat. Christina’s so possessive and distrustful that I knew if she got wind of this brush with Damien, she would imagine the worst and I’d be out of a job. So I said nothing to Christina in New York and I say nothing to the police officer now as she converses with me in the hotel bedroom.

I decide to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.

*

For something that was supposed to have been a ‘friendly chat’ the questioning is intense. After asking about my relations with Christina and Damien she embarks on a list of questions clearly aimed at working out a timeline for my movements this afternoon. What time did I arrive at the beach with Katie? Did I speak to anyone? Did anyone approach me or Katie? Did I notice anyone watching her? What time did I fall asleep? What time did I wake up? When did I become aware Katie was missing? What did I do next? Did I see anyone on the beach when I was looking for her? How long did I spend searching the beach before raising the alarm? What time did I tell Christina her little girl was missing?

My head is pounding and I feel like a criminal by the time the family liaison officer finally puts her notepad away.

‘These questions are nothing to worry about,’ she assures me. ‘We just need to establish the timeline for the disappearance of the little girl.’ She ends the conversation by encouraging me to contact her ‘any time, any place’ if I need support or if I ‘remember’ anything else that may be relevant to the investigation. I half expect her to clap me in handcuffs and announce that she’s putting me under arrest when at last she says that I’m at liberty to go.

*

In a waking nightmare, we struggle on through the grief-stricken hours of the day making calls, badgering the search team for any new scrap of information and giving interviews to reporters in the belief that getting Katie’s story out there might somehow help in her rescue.

The worst moment comes just after midnight when the operation is called to a halt. I collapse onto a chair in a quivering heap. All the strength has gone from my legs. Christina appears distraught, begging members of the police and emergency services to go on searching.

‘There’s nothing more we can do tonight. We’ll resume at dawn. You should get some sleep,’ says the commander sternly. Holding our despair at bay and unable to contemplate the thought of sleep, we pace the beaches and the rocky headland for the next two hours, tripping over stones in the darkness, our steps lit only by the moon and stars in the cloudless black sky and the light from our mobile phones.

I am lightheaded with exhaustion by the time I accompany Christina to her room in the early hours of the morning. We sit out on the balcony mesmerised by the sound of waves rolling on to sand. We are too tired to speak. I make tea and give her three sleeping tablets from a packet I find in her wash bag. Once the tablets take effect, I steer her to bed, her expression vacant and confused, as she lets me pull the covers over her. It’s not until I shut Christina’s door and go down the corridor to the room I’m sharing with Katie that it strikes me again. Where the fuck is Damien? I haven’t seen him all day, not since he handed me the cocktail at the pool.

When I open the door, there is Katie’s blue bunny, propped up on her newly-made bed. The tears stream down my face. The bedtime story I was reading to her last night is still open at the page we got to when her eyes finally closed. It’s a beautifully illustrated copy of Peter Pan that Christina discovered in a quaint little bookshop called the Book Cellar, one of her favourite haunts for second-hand books. I glance down at the page. ‘The Mermaids’ Lagoon’ – Katie’s favourite chapter. She loves the colour illustrations of the mermaids diving in the waves. The doors to the balcony are open. I shiver in the sea breeze and step out through billowing curtains.

I stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket.

Lost. Drowned.

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 
Twitter
Facebook

 

Posted in Book Review, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller

4* #Review The Woman in the Lake- Nicola Cornick

‘I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her…’

1765: Lady Isabella Gerard asks her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it. Its shimmering beauty has been tainted by the actions of her husband the night before.

Three months later: Lord Eustace Gerard stands beside the lake looking down at the woman in the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this is not his intended victim…

1996: Fenella Brightwell steals a stunning gown from a stately home. Twenty years later and reeling from the end of an abusive marriage, she wonders if it has cursed her all this time. Now she’s determined to discover the history behind the beautiful golden dress…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Domestic abuse is the dark theme of this timeslip novel. Another central element is the mystical influence of a golden gown, the reader finds characters linked over time, both victims of abusive partners.

The historical detail and setting for the eighteenth century part of the novel are atmospheric and absorbing. Lady Isabella is perhaps the easiest of the characters to empathise, as she suffers her husband’s mental and physical abuse.

Fenella suffers a similar fate in the present day, and its effects force her into the role of an unreliable protagonist. You are not sure of her true motives and whether she really sees what she says she does.

The characters are complex and well written. The story has a supernatural element, which could be explained away as the psychological impact of the women’s abuse but there is always an element of doubt that keeps the reader guessing.

Well-paced with a layered plot, the book keeps you enthralled until the end.

Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller

The Guilty Party – 4* #Review – Mel McGrath @HQstories @mcgrathmj

You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible? And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Four old friends witness a terrible crime, individually and finally, collectively, there are numerous opportunities where they can make a difference to the outcome, but they don’t.

The story moves forward to a different group gathering when they inadvertently find out the outcome of that night. Should they have acted differently? Are they guilty? Why did they react in the way they did?

Switching between timelines and different points of view the dilemma is revealed and painstakingly unravelled This complex story is suspenseful, intense and dark. Delving into the dark secrets people keep hidden from the world, their friends, and the way we lie, even to ourselves.

There are many plot twists and the ending maintains the story’s dark ethos. Don’t expect to like the characters, they have few redeeming features. Maybe they are a reflection of a contemporary society that focuses on self and the individual whilst promoting a blame culture? It makes you think, and the question posed is what would you do?