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?
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review
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.
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?
I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming.
In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.
Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
From the first page, this suspenseful thriller is intriguing.
Primarily told from Catherine’s husband’s point of view. He assumes the role of the story’s narrator, a unique and unusual role in this type of thriller. His insight is uncanny and the reader has to accept this until the pieces of the puzzle start to reveal themselves. When it becomes clear why he has this unusual insight into her thoughts, it’s probably not what you think, and so becomes a more compelling viewpoint.
Catherine is in a nightmare scenario and as the story unfolds you can understand what motivates her behaviour. Like me, you may wonder what you would do in the same situation. Catherine’s husband’s admiration of her is apparent throughout. She is a clever, driven character, who has fought to bring her child into the world and will never relinquish him. You empathise with her strongly but then, as you think it’s all over, it isn’t.
Gangland crime is at the heart of this plot but there are no stereotypes, the antagonists are believable and have no redeeming features, you are very much on the side of Catherine and Ethan her innocent child.
The twist is masterful and unexpected and makes the final chapters of the story enthralling.
Contemporary crime, authentic police procedures, and an intense, original plot, make ‘Trapped’ one of my favourite thrillers this year.
Guest Post – Nick Louth – Inspiration for Trapped
The original spark of inspiration for Trapped came after I read the brilliant novel Room by Emma Donoghue. I asked myself, could I write something that is even more claustrophobic than that? A story where the walls close in even tighter, where the threats are not mere confinement, but death. That’s when I came upon the idea of a woman and her child being imprisoned in the back of a squalid Transit van, inside a multi-storey car park surrounded by armed police. I wanted a dark, gritty setting, where the odds of survival were low. The next stage was to build a collision of temperament and outlook between prisoners and captors, to create a cauldron of conflict. Catherine Blake is the ultimate risk-averse mother, having finally given birth after years of trying, enduring miscarriages and IVF. Her protective nature involves shielding this precious child from even the most remote risks, by planning and foresight. Fretwell and Cousins, the gangsters who capture her and her child, are two men for whom long-term planning is a few minutes or at most a few hours. They get a kick from risk, a thrill from danger. Normally, these contrasting types of people do not run into each other. The power of the book comes from throwing them together in a believable way, under massive external pressure when the police arrive.
It’s not difficult to build scary gangsters, but what is hard is to steer away from the many cliches and stereotypes which infest the genre of crime fiction. In this case, I started with the names, courtesy of my own late father who used to tell me stories when I was a child of his national service in the 1950s. Amongst the many memorable characters, were the fearsome London hooligans Fretwell and Cousins, who intimidated even the sergeant major in my father’s regiment. The characters are completely different from those he described, but the names have a marvellous rhythm and are grafted onto two new characters. We spend very little time in the gangsters’ heads, but their actions reflect their impulsiveness. Our view into Catherine’s head is far more detailed and comes through her husband, who has a special all-seeing viewpoint that becomes ever clearer as the narrative progresses. His love for her and the ominous portents that he reveals are designed to create a shadow of foreboding right from the beginning. I’m very pleased with the reception that this unusual narrative voice has received from reviewers.
Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.
The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.
It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.
Thirty years later, Beth and Sally have tried to put the trauma behind them. Though Carol has distanced herself from her former friends, the three are adamant that the truth must never come to light, even if the memory still haunts them.
But when some shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol – before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.
Beth wishes she could take back the vow they made.
But somebody is watching and will stop at nothing to ensure the secret stays buried. Now, with her beloved family in peril, can Beth still keep the promise?
I received a copy of this book from Thomas &Mercer via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An unexpected event brings a terrible secret to the forefront of Beth’s mind, although her life since teenage has been blighted by the promise, she and her two friends made. Told mainly from Beth’s point of view this is a domestic rather than psychological thriller. The present-day story centres around her family and friends and is more of a suspenseful family drama.
Two further points of view are also key to the story, Carol, one of Beth’s school friends and Mathew, the private detective she and her friend Sally hire to find Carol.
The promise and the secret it protects isn’t revealed until two- thirds through the book, although there are clues before this. The late reveal doesn’t spoil the story, which explores Beth, Carol and Sally’s state of mind as the weight of keeping the promise intensifies. The plot is clever and there are two unexpected twists, which impact significantly on the characters and outcome of the story. These are believable but do stray away from the original storyline.
This story lacks the menacing undertone necessary for a psychological thriller, but it still an absorbing read, as the women struggle with their promise, their mental health and the truth’s they have denied for too many years. The ending is realistic and satisfying but it is the sadness of this story that resonates and makes it worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is an atmospheric tale, with a small town setting, twisty plot and well-crafted characters. Excellent pacing and flow make this such an absorbing and easy read.
Told from Emily’s point of view, as she answers her sister’s request to return to her home town after many years of absence, you discover that Emily is not keen to return, but the reasons why only become clear as the story progresses.
Ordinary events take on sinister connations and everyone has secrets. Emily’s fear and not knowing who to trust comes across well in this story. She feels alone and vulnerable, but this is what makes her determined to solve her sister’s disappearance, whatever the personal cost.
A good domestic suspense novel, that draws the reader in, from the first page.
When Kimber Hannon returns home from a work trip, she’s ready to kick back and relax on the sofa. But on reaching the front door, she is shocked to discover that her key no longer works and there’s a man in the bedroom window.
Kimber calls the police, but the intruder tells them he’s renting the house. Her neighbour corroborates his story and it is Kimber who is forced to leave. But before she does, the stranger whispers ‘I was there. I saw what you did.’
These words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. Her trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her home. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life – and destroy it.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder& Stoughton – Mulholland Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story starts off with a past tragic event and then switches to the present day, where Kimber returns home from a weekend away to find her locks have been changed and someone is in her house. It seems her past has returned to haunt her. Whilst there are many suspenseful scenes and some mind games, this doesn’t have the impact and underlying menace of a true psychological thriller.
It does have an unreliable protagonist, who is so flawed it’s difficult to find her redeeming features. As the story progresses and her secrets are revealed, her motivations are clearer and you realise she hates herself, and all her subsequent actions stem from this.
As a family drama, this is cleverly crafted with dysfunctional relationships, guilt and secrets everywhere, but despite the comparisons, this isn’t like ‘The Girl Before’ or ‘ You Let Me In’. They are menacing to read. This is suspenseful and tangled, but not as difficult to unravel.
If you are looking for a suspenseful read with layers of family and friendship drama, this is worth reading.