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

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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:

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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. 
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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?

Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller

Apple of My Eye – Claire Allan- 5*#Review -@AvonBooksUK @ClaireAllan

Just how far is a mother willing to go?

When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.

As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.

Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A spine chilling domestic set psychological thriller. Like the previous novel ‘Her Name Was Rose’, the plot is believable and therefore menacing. The plot has many twists and you understand how Eli cannot trust anyone in her life.

Told from three points of view, there is a sense of dramatic irony, as you as the reader know more than the main protagonist. However can you believe what you read, or are you being misled?

Addictive, Authentic and Audacious and worth reading.