I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
It is this novel’s complexity and depth that makes it such a riveting read.
A shooting, a missing girl and a failed suicide, the clues are evident, but there are so many permutations when the past is interwoven with the present, is it really as simple as it seems? The beginning is shocking, and the guilty party obvious? Until you meet the cast of characters, both in the present day and eighteen years previously. Everyone seems guilty, and you begin to doubt your observation skills and understanding of what is happening.
Jess, a journalist is trying to make a new start in Bristol, but when there is a sudden, violent incident in the town where she grew up, the past and present collide, and she has to face secrets she kept for years, and confront why she always seems to be running away.
Margot’s life changed irrevocably eighteen years ago, but not for the first time. Now she faces heartbreak again, can she survive the loss of both her daughters?
The plot is fast-paced and easy to follow, as it moves between the past and present, and the different points of view. The characters are believable, as are the situations they find themselves in. Jess has a unique role in the story, both objective from her profession and subjective from her relationship with the family. This allows her, and the reader insights that an outsider wouldn’t have, but also raises moral questions of bias and loyalty.
The unravelling of what led to the murders and the disappearance of Flora is realistic. The twists are clever, and the final chapters, adrenaline led and thought-provoking.
A cerebral thriller, that is both poignant and twisted.
Imagine turning up to your own party, and recognising no one. Your best friend has just created your worst nightmare.
Louisa is an exhausted, sleep-deprived new mother and, approaching her fortieth birthday, the very last thing she wants to do is celebrate.
But when her best friend Tiff organises a surprise party, inviting the entire list of Lou’s Facebook friends, she’s faced with a new source of anxiety altogether: a room full of old college classmates who she hasn’t spoken to in twenty years. And one person, in particular, she never expected to see again is there – her ex-boyfriend from college, the handsome and charismatic Oliver Dunmore.
When Oliver’s wife Melissa goes missing after the party, everyone remembers what happened that night differently. It could be the alcohol, but it seems more than one person has something to hide.
Louisa is determined to find the truth about what happened to Melissa. But just how far does she need to look…?
One simple Facebook invitation unfolds into something both tragic and monstrous; a story of obsessive love, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Like many psychological thrillers, this one has a strong family drama theme. Written in the third person from Louisa’s point of view, it focuses almost exclusively on her emotions, motivations, observations and thoughts, This does mean that the other characters in the story fade into to the background, even though they are in many cases key to the storyline.
Louisa is an unreliable protagonist, sleep-deprived, looking after a young baby. She may also be suffering from postnatal depression, but because everything is seen from her point of view, and she has no insight into her mental health, this possibility is alluded to, but not explored. Diagnosed with dissociative amnesia, where the person cannot recall personal information, not explained by ordinary forgetting, usually triggered by trauma or extreme stress.
The plot is for the most part believable, the pacing varies, but you are drawn into Lousia’s story. How much of it is in her mind? Is her paranoia, justified, or a symptom of her mental state? Despite her unreliability, I did sympathise with Louisa. The remainder of the characters, could all be guilty of something, with the exception of Emily her teenage daughter, who I also like, especially as she realises how fragile her mother is, as the story progresses, and supports her, the best she can.
The clues and the misinformation are integrated into the plot well, but they didn’t surprise me. The final few chapters are bizarre, but not unimaginable, who knows what they would do in those circumstances?
Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swears it’s over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.
Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.
Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.
And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a psychological thriller that resonates. Whilst, it has all the expected qualities of the genre, it contains so much more. A domestic thriller and a family drama, with secrets and tragedy. Mental Health issues and homelessness are major themes woven into the hard-hitting emotional story. The unreliable protagonist Ellie is a grandmother, which affords her a certain uniqueness in this genre, but her life is riddled with neglect, trauma and self-loathing. She is someone you empathise with, as each terrible injustice and secret are revealed. The ending seems just, but there is a twist that leaves you wondering.
The plot is complex and pacy, it keeps you guessing, whilst you are reeling from the horror and injustice of the women’s lives that are explored. It confuses, it’s meant to. The story is addictive, coherent, and full of relevant examples of mental health issues, and the largely overlooked plight of homelessness. It makes you think, and worry about the society we live in.
The thriller aspect is clever and calculating, the emotion is genuine and heartbreaking, the moral issues raised are thought-provoking and worrying. You will carry this story with you, and not many books in this genre can say that.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘A Nearly Normal Family’, has all the atmosphere, detail and intrigue of a Nordic Thriller, but the pace, moral questions and twists of an excellent courtroom and family drama. The protagonists are pushed to their limits, making them unreliable, so that even when you think you know, you probably don’t, giving this story the edge and mystery of a psychological thriller.
Told from three points of view, the father (a Pastor), the mother( a Lawyer), and the daughter (a clever, rebellious teenager). The events surrounding the murder are revealed, through each character’s point of view
The father is severely tested, his control of the family threatened and his moral beliefs challenged. What will he do for his daughter who he believes in totally? The daughter uses her intelligence to fuel her rebellion against her parents and their beliefs. She has secrets, one of which has damaged her, but is she capable of murder? The mother’s point of view is left until the end and reveals an unexpected twist. All lie and have secrets, making them unreliable protagonists.
The pace of this story is good, even though it is detailed, it doesn’t sacrifice ease of reading for content and this makes it addictive. The characters are believable, and their actions and motives realistic. You are forced to consider how you would act in similar circumstances.
The daughter has considerable insight, and this makes you question whether does she have severe mental health issues, or is manipulative and uses her personality to achieve her aims.
The final scenes reveal an uncomfortable truth that makes you question what has come before. The perfect ending to this atmospheric, crime based twisty thriller.
Faye Townsend has planned the perfect summer trip for her family. But returning to the small seaside town her husband grew up in does not go to plan, the rain pours and the long days become stifling. And then the unthinkable happens…
Her husband Jake and her six-year-old son Dylan go for an early morning walk along the beautiful, windswept clifftops. They don’t come back.
As the hours tick by, Dylan’s red baseball cap is found on the beach and Faye finds herself being questioned by the police. They want to know everything about the man she married – is Faye ready to face her husband’s dark past? Or will she have to confront her own secrets first?
And just how far will a mother go to save her only child?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The suspense builds quietly, from the first line and ends abruptly, leaving you wanting more, what happens next? Then you’re in the midst of a family holiday, a surprise that seems to be missing the mark?
The family scene that the author describes, from Faye’s point of view, seems familiar, ordinary, even relatable, but the house is creepy, and everyone is tense, and Faye sees someone outside. You are on tenterhooks waiting for something to happen.When it does, it seems straightforward, but it isn’t, and then you’re gripped, and it’s impossible to put down.
The characters are complex, they have so many layers, They all have secrets. There is an unidentified male point of view, that draws your thoughts in one direction, but then the plot twists, and you’re no longer sure.
The twists are subtle but believable, it’s like walking in a maze. I loved how the plot gradually revealed salient details, using flashbacks to Lainey and Jake’s past, but is the point of view reliable?
What you suppose is the final twist, poses a moral dilemma, but from my point of view is satisfying, but then there is a further revelation that ends this riveting story in an unforgettable way.
Claire Westcott tries to be the perfect wife to Byron but fears she will never measure up to his ex, Colleen. After all, it’s hard to compete with the dead.
Colleen went missing eight years ago. Her body was never found but the police ruled it a suicide. So when Claire receives a phone call from a woman she believes is Colleen, it sparks a million terrifying questions.
Claire discovers the couple weren’t as happy as they would have people believe. And now she’s worried Byron has been lying to her.
There are secrets in every marriage, but sometimes those secrets are deadly.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton UK – Mulholland Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The illusion of a perfect marriage is a popular trope for psychological thrillers. but this one has enough originality to make it addictive. Told from two points of view, Claire, Byron’s second wife, and an unknown younger woman, it uncovers a web of lies. Claire is an unreliable protagonist, she drinks and is obsessive. She is hard to empathise, even though she appears to be the victim. The other point of view is also obsessive and appears to present a threat to Byron and Claire’s marriage.
The pace and length of the story are perfect, no unnecessary detail, to detract from the character insights and the events, past and present that the plot reveals.This is a complex story, with many twists, the reader deviates between Claire, Byron and the mystery point of view, who is the victim and who is the antagonist?
It’s a story that demands concentration, you can’t dip in and out, the clues are there, and are more obvious as the story heads towards its conclusion, but they are easy to miss, or misconstrue.
The ending fits well with what has gone before and is a satisfactory conclusion of this cleverly plotted, page-turning, psychological thriller.
You are outside your front door. There are strangers in your house. Then you realise… You can’t remember your name.
She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work.
Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there
– passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t
remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.
Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she
lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.
Two things, really: the fear of forgetting, and how identity is bound up with our memories. Forget My Name begins with a woman who arrives off the train in a Wiltshire village not dissimilar to where I live. She is unable to remember her own name and is without any form of identification, having lost her bag at the airport. Passport, bank cards, mobile phone – all gone. The only thing she has is a train ticket and a vague sense that she lives in the village. How did she get there? And who is she? When she approaches the house that she thinks is hers, she peers in through the window and sees a young couple preparing dinner. I was haunted by such an image when I was commuting from my own village in Wiltshire to London. It was a stressful time in my life. I had a young family and the trains were always delayed. When I returned late, I often wondered what it would be like if I glanced through the window of my own house, only to see another family preparing for bed.
What makes your story different in this popular genre?
A character suffering from amnesia is a popular trope in psychological thrillers. S.J.Watson explored it brilliantly in Before I Go to Sleep. I have tried to push it even further, taking the genre into what I hope is new territory. By its very nature, amnesia has a lot in common with unreliability, another popular theme in psychological thrillers, and I’ve explored this too in a dark and unexpected way.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
I think any author who says they don’t base their characters on people they know is lying! That’s not to say that they are transposed from life to page without any changes. I tend to be a bit of a magpie, picking traits from different people and merging them into a new character. Friends are always asking me, ‘Am I in it?’ and it’s a difficult question to answer. “Bits of you might be’ isn’t quite the answer they’re looking for.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
Place plays a very important part in my books and I knew that I wanted to write about a Wiltshire village in Forget My Name. I also wanted to write about a woman who has survived a hideous trauma of some sort but is definitely not a passive victim. So place and the lead character were uppermost in my mind when I started to work out what that trauma might have been and the effects it’s had on her life. I was also keen to explore popular neuroscience, in this case, the role that the hippocampus – a seahorse-shaped part of the brain – plays in human memory.
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I was asked this question the other day by a close friend and I couldn’t really answer it. I’m not sure you actively choose to become a writer – it’s just something that happens. I’d read English at university and was a freelance journalist for ten years before I wrote my first novel, The Riot Act, in 1997, so I clearly enjoyed working with words. Writing at greater length than a magazine article was a natural progression. As for psychological thrillers, I used to write spy novels – I’ve had five espionage thrillers and a novella published under my own name, Jon Stock – until I switched names and genres in 2017. I had done all I wanted to do with the world of spies and had become increasingly interested in popular neuroscience. In Find Me, my first psychological thriller, and now Forget My Name, I’ve been able to explore themes of memory and identity through a new and exciting lens.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
In terms of fiction, I tend to read anything but thrillers when I’m writing, usually more literary fiction by authors such as Eimear McBride. I don’t want to be distracted or envious! I read a lot of non-fiction books when I’m writing, most recently Into the Grey Zone, by Dr Adrian Owen, who explores the relationship between brain, mind and consciousness and the penumbral world between life and death. I re-read John Fowles’s The Magus on holiday in Greece last summer, which remains a mind-blowing piece of storytelling, and I’m looking forward to reading Ian McEwan’s new one, Machines Like Me.
What are you currently writing?
I’m just putting the finishing touches on the first draft of my new novel, which gives a modern, high-tech spin on the Gothic trope of doppelgängers. In this digital age of social media and selfies, it’s surprisingly easy to find – or be found by – someone who looks identical to you…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
Losing your identity and turning up in a place that you vaguely recognise, the house you think is yours, but someone else is living there, and they don’t know you are, is the idea behind #ForgetMyName, a classy, well researched psychological thriller.
This thriller works, because this type of crisis is a fear for many people. We are grounded by familiarity, we feel safe, and not being able to fall back on things we recognise, is a shattering concept, for most people.
The everyday setting, makes the woman’s situation more frightening, she wants to fit in, remember, but she can’t. Is she running from something terrible? Something she’s done or been done to her? Do others know more about her situation than she does? Why are they keeping secrets? Do they really want to help her? All these questions make this a believable, twisty thriller. It has the ambience of a gothic style plot. Creepy, evil, lies, secrets and the main protagonist who doesn’t know who to trust, and whether she can even trust herself.
Chilling, compulsive reading, with realistic characters, hard to spot clues, and a relentless pace make this an addictive book that you read with the fervent hope you never forget who you are.
J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.