Claire lives with her family in a beautiful house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.
But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.
Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I finished reading this story feeling incredibly sad, the ending is haunting, full of loss and wasted opportunity, and what if…
This story begins like the domestic thriller, I thought it would be, but it is essentially a suspenseful family drama. Claire’s home life is materially perfect, but under the surface, it is a maelstrom of claustrophobia, discontent and simmering hatred. She wants to escape, from her house’s emotionless perfection, and her empty marriage.
The story is told from Claire’s point of view, before and after Joe’s disappearance; her story is full of resentment, and as it is in the first person, intensely personal. Duncan’s point of view is after Joe’s disappearance, except for one later chapter. This is told in the third person, so his point of view is more objectively portrayed.
This is a family drama, interwoven with strange occurrences that echo what Claire is experiencing. She is an unreliable protagonist, tortured by a past secret, which has dominated her future life. Duncan is essentially an unlikeable character, abusive, and a serial philanderer. It is only when the reasons for this emerge that his behaviour becomes easier to understand. Joe their son is autistic, and he finds the coldness of his parent’s marriage hard to cope with, choosing solitude and the company of his dog in preference to theirs.
This is an unhappy, but believable story. The pace, for the most part, is slow, and the events ordinary and repetitive, because it portrays their life. The twists when revealed have more impact because of this.
The setting is atmospheric and described in detail. The folklore surrounding Claire and Duncan’s home provides an interesting strand of the story, and Claire is haunted by it, in her precarious emotional state.
Guilt and secrets underpin this drama, which is suspenseful, but not in the way you may expect. The ending is well-written and devastating. It draws all the plot threads, and the main characters together in a heartbreakingly tragic way, that resonates.
Poignant family drama, with a suspenseful thread, that explodes into an unexpectedly powerful conclusion.
Two years ago, Ben Fenton went camping with his brother Leo. It was the last time they ever saw each other. By the end of that fateful trip, Leo had disappeared, and Ben had been arrested for his murder.
Ben’s wife Ana has always protested his innocence. Now, on the hottest day of 2018’s sweltering heatwave, she receives a phone call from the police. Leo’s body has been found, in a freshly dug grave in her own local churchyard. How did it get there? Who really killed him?
St Albans police, led by DCI Jansen, are soon unpicking a web of lies that shimmers beneath the surface of Ana’s well-kept village. But as tensions mount, and the tight-knit community begins to unravel, Ana realises that if she wants to absolve her husband, she must unearth the truth alone.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book featuring Dutch detective DCI Jansen, who finds himself mystified by the close-knit English village community. It seems no one believes in plain-speaking, preferring closing ranks, and relying on innuendos.
The story is a sad one. Two brothers take a camping trip two years earlier. One is presumed dead, the other convicted of murder, but is it that simple. Ana, the accused brother’s partner. believes not. She has no chance of proving this until the missing brother’s body is found buried in the village. Now, his brother can’t be the murderer. DCI Jansen has to find the real killer, but although gossip is rife in the village, there is nothing of substance, and everyone is keeping secrets.
DCI Jansensuffers a personal tragedy, which he has to conquer, to stop his emotional state having a detrimental effect on the case. Ana wants to help her partner but doesn’t want to reveal what she knows. She feels threatened, and the suspense and menacing ethos surrounding her are well-written.
There is a strong psychological element to this story, particularly from Ana’s perspective, as events from her past invade her present situation. Events are revealed, from Leo’s point of view, in the past, and Ana, Ben and DCI Jansen’s points of view, in the present. The two timelines create dramatic irony, the reader knowing things the characters don’t at that time.
Scene setting and character dynamics form the first part of the book, this slows the pace, but the short chapters and active voice, keep the story moving satisfactorily, ensuring reader engagement.There are several viable suspects, and even though you may guess who did it, early on in the story, there are plenty of smoke and mirrors. to make you doubt it.
Clever twists and a final reveal, make this a good story, with its solid police procedural theme tempered with psychological suspense.
Rachael Blok grew up in Durham and studied Literature at Warwick University. She taught English at a London Comprehensive and is now a full-time writer living in Hertfordshire with her husband and children.
Guest Post- Rachael Blok – ‘The Scorched Earth’, and Ana: where she came from.
The Scorched Earth has a number of different voices, but my protagonist is Ana, a woman struggling with grief as her partner is in jail, and then ghosts from her past emerge: she begins to hear footsteps behind her in a car park late and night; she begins to look over her shoulder… Ana’s experiences are both ideas I’ve wanted to write about for a while. It was a pleasure to see her come to life on paper.
Women are told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if they’re being attacked…
As a woman, I’ve felt on more than one occasion a burst of fear walking home in the dark, or walking into a car park late a night. My mum, my sister and I all took a self-defence course years ago, and we were told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if we’re attacked – people respond more if their property is threatened! I have no answer for this, but I find it terrifying. This fear resonates in the novel and I think, it’s fear men and women should both be aware of. I always tell my husband that if he’s walking behind a woman on her own, late at night, he should drop back – make sure she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder or be concerned about a threat. And the very real issue of stalking is taken more seriously now than it has been in the past, but there is still some way to go. When relationships break down and men find it hard to let women go, it can be a very scary time, and women find it difficult to get concerns taken seriously, often until after an attack.
They locked him up, but they locked her up, too…
Whilst researching the novel, I spent some time in prison,
which is not at all like I imagined! My main experience had been from movies
and the TV. I found the reality much scarier. I saw homemade weapons; I heard
stories of attacks on officers and other prisoners; I spoke to many different
people from all aspects of prison life, and it was such an eye-opener. I think
as a society we lock people away in all respects – there’s a sense of being
forgotten, completely. Women whose partners are in jail spoke of the shame, and
also the halted grief – they miss their partners, but can’t grieve for them,
they can’t move on. This grief is something Ana wrestles with, and I hope I’ve
done it justice.
The prison scenes almost wrote themselves after I’d visited. Even the smell is distinct. My prison officer guides me into the contraband room, where they keep the confiscated drugs. Spice is the drug they have the most problems with at the moment, which is synthetic cannabis. It’s smuggled into the prisons in all sorts of ways. One of the ways is through books and magazines. The pages are soaked in the spice, and so prisons have to scan all books now. So many ideas for plots!
It’s been a pleasure to write the guest blog and thanks to Jane Hunt for giving me the opportunity to mull over the ideas for the novel. I hope you enjoy The Scorched Earth!
Britain: a few years from now. A new populist political
party has won the recent general election.
Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger,
loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative
reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians
are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits
Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt
to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for
A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller
set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man
confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
‘A Friend In Deed’, moves forward to the near future, when Britain is in political turmoil, and a reactionary new political force is running the government. Duncan, who we first met in ‘Love’s Long Road’ is in his sixties, a political blogger and journalist, he is still suffering from the fallout of his first novel and its real-life implications, for himself, Bobbie and Michael, two characters featured in earlier books.
This is a topical political thriller, which could easily be fact rather than fiction. Like the other books, the characters are complex, with many flaws that give them authenticity. The writing style is easy to read, and the fast-pace keeps the reader engaged with a clever plot. which has the right balance of adrenaline moments and deeper more insightful reflection.
The author’s effortless connection with past, present and future, gives the story character development and depth of interest. It can happily be read as a standalone thriller, but I have enjoyed reading the other books.
I was placed third in the 2015
Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red
Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter,
longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.
In 2017, I was one of twelve authors
selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in
Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in
crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have
spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the
Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road
Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.
worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the
plot and setting that I used in A Friend
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The grieving widow. The other woman. Which one is which?
When Cameron Swift is shot and killed outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer. Her role is to support the family – and investigate them.
Monika, Cameron’s partner and mother of two sons, had to be prised off his lifeless body after she discovered him. She has no idea why anyone would target Cameron.
Beth can understand Monika’s confusion. To everyone in their affluent community, Monika and her family seemed just like any other. But then Beth gets a call.
Sara is on holiday with her daughters when she sees the news. She calls the police in the UK, outraged that no one has contacted her to let her know or offer support. After all, she and Cameron had been together for the last seven years…
Until Cameron died, Monika and Sara had no idea each other existed. As the case unfolds, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets. Especially the dead…
A loving husband, Patrick. Two adorable children. A comfortable home.
So when PC Becca Holt arrives to break the news that Patrick has been killed in an accident, she thinks Louise’s perfect world is about to collapse around her.
But Louise doesn’t react in the way Becca would expect her to on hearing of her husband’s death. And there are only three plates set out for dinner as if Louise already knew Patrick wouldn’t be home that night…
The more Becca digs, the more secrets she uncovers in the Bridges’ marriage – and the more she wonders just how far Louise would go to get what she wants…
Is Louise a loving wife – or a cold-hearted killer?
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A curious mix of psychological suspense and family drama, this story will appeal to those who like psychological orientated suspense. This plot doesn’t have the impact common to most thrillers but does use the unreliable protagonist technique well. There are two, in this story, Louise, the perfect widow and Becca the policewoman who sets out to investigate her, based on one brief observation.
Primarily a story of obsession, emotional damage, resulting from poor nurturing in childhood and control The plot handles the psychological theme competently. The introduction of a crusading police constable, who sees beneath the image Louise portrays isn’t convincing. Becca, in many ways, is a superfluous character, except perhaps in her obsessive similarities to Louise?
The plot lacks real-time action, everything is retold either in the past or present by Louise or Becca. this slows the pace and leaves you in the characters heads for too long, making some the twists not as suspenseful as they could be, if written less passively.
A story for the psychological fiction devotees, who like to see how the mind works, given a certain set of stimuli, rather than those who like a combination of jaw-dropping twists and a twisted unexpected ending,
When a body is found floating in London’s Royal Albert Dock, successful public relations expert Kay Christie is sent to quiet the media, but things get complicated when it emerges that she knew the victim.
As events spiral out of control, Kay discovers that those close to her may be harbouring another secret – the story of a missing girl. Can Kay discover the truth before her life unravels and she risks losing everything?
In the Wake questions whether we can ever truly leave our pasts behind and explores the lengths that we will go to protect the people that we love.
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Publications in return for an honest review.
A dark crime thriller, with a fusion of psychological suspense, police procedural and noir romance making this book a riveting read.
This story starts with an unnoticed disappearance, then a body and finally a connection. The reader is thrown into a maelstrom of crime, drama and suspense, which ramps up with each turn of the page.
Told in the third person from Kay’s point of view, with illuminating flashback chapters to two historical time periods, you wonder if she is hiding something, and she is. Past connections and present-day loyalties and dangerous sexual attraction, make Kay vulnerable. If she cannot work out what is happening and who she can trust, she will pay the ultimate price.
This is a fast-paced, gritty thriller, with sex and violence taking centre stage. Kay takes the role of an unreliable protagonist. A clever, intriguing noir crime thriller, that makes an enjoyable read for those who like a seamless fusion of literary genres.
Helen Trevorrow is a graduate of the 2016 Faber Academy creative writing programme. She studied at Leeds University and has worked in marketing and public relations in London. She is a specialist food and drink PR. Helen’s debut novel IN THE WAKE is a feminist crime thriller about family, unrealised trauma and alcoholism. Helen has ghost-written many articles for newspapers, magazines and websites. She lives in Brighton, Sussex with her wife and child.
When a woman’s body is found submerged in icy water, police are shocked to find she is alive. But she won’t disclose her name, or what happened to her – even when a second body is discovered. And then she disappears from her hospital bed.
Detectives Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey follow their only lead to the home of the Corrigans, looking for answers. But the more they dig into the couple’s lives, the less they understand about them.
What’s their connection to the body in the river?
Why have other people they know been hurt, or vanished?
And can they discover the dark truth of their marriage before it’s too late?
I received a copy of this book from Avon BooksUK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a compelling, emotional, twisty thriller. Part of a series of detective stories featuring DS Mills and DS Grey. It reads well as a standalone police procedural, as enough backstory on the detectives is given to illuminate their relationship and the dynamic of the police investigation team.
The story begins with a drama and a mystery to be solved, then a murder which focuses on a local business empire. The story is primarily told from the two detectives point of view, with the woman in the water’s point of view solving bits of the mystery as the story progresses.
The turning point for the thriller occurs half-way through and involves a graphically described act of violence, which is unexpected in its ferocity. It alters the tone of the investigation and introduces an intensity not previously evident.
This is a pivotal moment in the story, but the description is brutal and horrible to read. Since this is my first book by this author, I’m not sure if her regular readers expect to read such gratuitous violence, I didn’t.
I read the second half of the story reeling from the previous violence. The ending has a few more twists, which I guessed. It still leaves loose ends, which will alter the focus of any books that follow.
An excellent story, which keeps you engaged, but the levels of violence will not be for everyone.