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.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.
In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A tragic event at an alternative medicine site leaves two dead, and others severely injured. This story is about the court case that follows over a year later, through the testimonies and thoughts of the people involved at the time, the story explores what really happened and whether the person in the dock is truly guilty.
The courtroom scenes are detailed and enthralling, seen through multi-points-of-view they illuminate the actions, emotions and motivations of the people at the time of the accident and before. All have secrets, tell lies and many have a motive, but are they guilty? The perception is whilst their lies may be insignificant in abstract, they may form part of a conspiracy against justice and the truth.
The people undergoing treatment are vulnerable and deserve protection. The crime is shocking, as are the revelations that follow. It is not easy reading, but there is nothing gratuitous, everything is a piece in the puzzle or an insight into a character’s personality.
Parenting a child with a disability, maintaining your personal identity, as an immigrant, the role of women in society, abuse, culture clashes, society’s expectations and norms, and alternative medical treatments are themes of this complex, well-researched story. They interweave with a pacy, twisty, sometimes controversial plot. Making this story an addictive mix of courtroom drama, family secrets and psychological thriller.
The ending has a final twist, not unexpected, but still shocking. The sense that the guilt should be shared is paramount and is the perfect end for this thought-provoking novel.
The story is original and complex, the characters are well thought out and believable, The courtroom scenes are realistic, but did I enjoy reading it?
The overriding ethos is dark, and almost lacking in hope, showing the worst side of humanity. Also, there is a level of repetition because events are examined from multi-points- of-view. So, the jury’s still out for me. It’s down to personal preference. If you like a mix of courtroom drama and psychological thriller, you should give this a try.
I disappeared on a Tuesday afternoon. I was there one minute and the next I was gone. They’ve never found my body…
It’s six in the morning during the hottest summer on record when Elizabeth O’Loughlin, out walking her dog, comes across Clare, a victim of a horrific knife attack, clinging onto life at the side of the road.
Clare dies minutes later, but not before whispering her haunting last words to Elizabeth.
When it becomes clear that Clare’s killer has more than one murder on his mind, Elizabeth has to take drastic action or face losing everything.
But what if she can’t stop a killer determined never to be forgotten?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A strange, poignant beginning sets the scene for this psychological thriller set in Northern Ireland. The sense of loss draws you in and you want to know why this woman had to leave her baby.
Elizabeth, one of the main points of view in the story, is living a semi-reclusive life, she feels safe in her remote home but makes the effort to get out to walk her beloved dog. Her grisly discovery, leaves her shocked and fearful, wondering what the last words of the dying woman meant.
Rachel is the second main point of view, one of a group of three friends, who are all affected by Elizabeth’s discovery at the side of the road.
All of the protagonists, fall into the category of unreliable narrators, they are emotionally damaged, flawed and hiding secrets.
Each chapter reveals a little more of the truth, but also more questions and misinformation. Everyone appears guilty at some point in the story, but are they capable of killing?
The suspense is layered and relentless, increasing as the story progresses, this has an addictive quality that makes you read on, even though you may not like what is happening or how some of the protagonists behave and interact.
Well-written, this fast-paced story maintains its menacing quality, and keeps its most destructive secrets, until the final twist. as a good psychological thriller should.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.
A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.
Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.
Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.
Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.
The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.
Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall
The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November
air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled
high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon,
crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire
Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head
only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch
alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.
My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white
that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands
are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and
children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind
the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky,
before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night
air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire
casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so
her view isn’t obstructed.
For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.
‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine
into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink
– not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve
told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a
nanny, but she never takes any notice.
‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let
the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots
into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises
from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her
hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket,
drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says,
the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind
the cordon in front of us.
‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare
to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that.
Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not
Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the
position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon
as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we
wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks
‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says
impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and
frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak.
‘Where is she?’
I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the
faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their
droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in
the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me
either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.
‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled
wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising
from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as
she glances past me, searching for Laurel.
‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at
her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink
and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’
‘She did? Are you sure?’
‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.
‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’
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.
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.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
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
I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember
Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming
else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise
the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up
Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,
to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at
is written on the dressing-room door:
name, not his. I never changed it.
because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage
only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name
defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,
in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a
Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.
Someone else. A new
name for a new me. The me I became when
else was looking.
a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.
I think we broke us last night.
it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the
because they can.
He hurt me.
made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be
in order to fix them.
I hurt him back.
check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,
way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,
spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever
I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of
hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;
are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,
walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.
Something very bad happened last night.
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
around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen
face wear before.
I can still fix this. I can fix us.
lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.
was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also
walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving
dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.
steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately
the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.
I did love him, I still do.
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.
night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and
told him that I meant it this time.
I didn’t. Mean it.
climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio
steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,
the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my
edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,
face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before
me, acting has never been about attracting attention or
to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do
else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel
The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,
that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.
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
event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I
to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,
in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.
Nobody understands who I really am, except him.
husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My
is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled
start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I
never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my
tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which
kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing
you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or
it again yourself.
drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing
real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in
mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about
forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told
have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my
as though all the things they have seen made them swell
of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert
not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing
me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget
eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t
what she said about my performance.
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
but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound
– it took me away from him – and I think he needed
make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m
who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted
He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the
He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too
so tight that it hurt.
I think part of me liked it.
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
fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But
is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve
felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in
way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of
and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the
out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.
let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,
I call, taking off my coat.
the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,
home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to
this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never
its own cage.
I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our
every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of
night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of
lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve
every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate
of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small
attached to them; there’s just one word:
is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.
want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.
want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I
to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before
started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the
I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.
retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on
coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere
his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either
or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and
a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see
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
search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This
out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where
left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one
time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall
hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.
Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?
is the most destructive form of self-harm.
series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears: