And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.
Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.
Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.
Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my second psychological thriller by this author, and like her previous book ‘The Marriage Betrayal’ this story explores a family tragedy, with two main points of view, and lots of plot twists that make reading it, a mind-blowing experience.
The story begins with Catriona in the past. She is emotionally distraught, something terrible has happened, she finds herself at a shopping mall, and after a while, a young child catches her attention.
Rachel tells her story in the present, she meets a new mother at school, their children become instant friends, but when she meets the older sibling, she cannot believe her eyes. She resembles the child she lost eight years previously.
This is a story of secrets, obsession and tragedy. Neither viewpoint is reliable, and whilst most of the information relayed from the two points of view seems plausible, you are constantly waiting for the twist that says you are wrong.
The characters have many flaws, Rachel is hard to like, even though you empathise with her situation. She trusts no one, and you wonder why she has kept her secrets for so long.
This is an emotionally gripping story, with relentless suspense, that draws you in and keeps you reading. There are some less plausible parts to the story, but this is a psychological thriller, told by unreliable protagonists, you cannot expect events to be conventional.
The twists are well constructed and keep you guessing, and the trademark ending makes you gasp, even though you knew it was coming.
Not to be missed if you love the twisty turns of a good psychological thriller, with a seemingly normal domestic setting.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
This book explores how isolated we all are. Even though, many of us live in overpopulated cities, how many people do we interact with face to face in a meaningful way?
Lexie and Harriet live next door to each other, Lexie lives with Tom and is desperately trying to get pregnant. Harriet lives alone, but often has noisy parties, Lexie never goes to. Both can hear muffled sounds of life through their apartment wall, and they both envy each other’s life to a degree. Told from both of the women’s points of view, a story of deceit, obsession and deteriorating mental health unfolds.
Harriet’s past life is gradually revealed and you realise what an unreliable protagonist she is. Her story is heartbreakingly sad, and as you understand what motivates her behaviour, the sense of menace and suspense builds.
Lexie is also in the grip of an obsession, she wants a baby to exclusion of all else, this puts a strain on her relationship with Tom, and makes her wonder what it would be like to be Harriet, someone she knows little about.
The story is slow-paced and detailed, and probably slightly longer than it needs to be, but the characters are complex, flawed and relatable, and the plot has many subtle twists. However, what you see, is actually what you get. Whilst this story lacks the big reveal, the delivery has a relentlessness about it, that makes you dread, what is going to happen next. You know it isn’t going to end well for someone.
I received a copy of this book from SilverWood Books in return for an honest review.
Based on a true crime, although ‘The Birthday House’. is a fictional interpretation of the events before, during and after the tragedy. The characters too are fictional, although the author did know the young girl who was murdered.
This is a short story, but it has depth and impact, more so because this is based upon a real, historical crime. Told from the viewpoints of the people involved it paints a picture, which is both poignant and inevitable. The housekeeper, who made the discovery, and its aftereffects on her. The wife, the child, the friend, the child’s best friend, the husband, who committed such a grievous atrocity, and the grandmother left only with her memories and regrets.
The story reads well, drawing you into the 1950s Dartmouth community. There is something fatalistic about it, so many opportunities to circumvent the eventual tragedy, but still, it happened. A well-written thought-provoking story,
I started writing in a red shiny exercise book
when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’
activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt
able to call myself ‘writer’.
But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a
writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was
it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because
I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get
miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of
Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved but left because I could no longer cope with the system.
This led to a freelance career as an
independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the
work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as
well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects
concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child
abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.
All these experiences feed into the process of
writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy
work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable
Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the
University of Bath.
I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently
and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in
Writers’ groups and workshops are a further
invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups
locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can.
I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus
and discipline achieved among others in a group.
I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing-course to explore this genre in more depth.
I live with my husband in South Devon and
enjoy being involved in a lively local community.
is not the man everyone believes him to be. And Emelia is not the woman he
wants her to be.
was a whirlwind romance, Anthony was the doting boyfriend, the charismatic and
successful career man who swept her off her feet. But now Emelia is trapped in
a marriage of dark secrets and obsession. She is no more than something Anthony
wants to ‘fix’, one of his pet projects.
has no escape from the life that Anthony insists on controlling, so she shares
her story through the only means she can – her blog. Yet Anthony can never find
out. Forced to hide behind a false name, Emelia knows the only way that Anthony
will allow her to leave him, is death.
Trapped with a man she knows is trying to kill her, Emelia is determined that someone will hear her story and Anthony will meet his ends. That everyone will discover the truth.
I received a copy of this book from the Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A story of two halves as many psychological thrillers are.
The story begins with a blog post, Emelia has a life-limiting condition and wondered if she would have the chance of a normal marriage. Anthony was more than she thought possible until he wasn’t. Once married, things change and the doting man becomes increasingly controlling. Limiting her life, even more than her physical state does.
This is a domestic thriller, claustrophobic and dark, and you wonder if she has it in her to escape. Then there’s a twist that turns this into a noir psychological thriller, where you doubt what you read, and don’t know who to believe, and wonder if anything that came before is ‘The Truth’?
The ending has another twist and leaves ‘normal’ minds with more questions. Based on a collection of real events, this is chilling, claustrophobic and clever, something different.
Guest Post – Naomi Joy – The Truth –Notes on Inspiration
If you ask authors where they get their inspiration, you’ll receive a range of answers. It might be an amazing location that’s captured their imagination – I think of Mandy Baggot’s Greek settings or Pat Black’s dark forests. They could have picked up on trends in our society – how more and more people are meeting one another online (Click, L.Smyth). It could have been a big change in their own lives – a new baby, a new job, a new man on the train (The Note, Z.Folbigg) – that sparked their creative fuse. I read about an author whose grandparent had lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and written a diary about the day – inspiration indeed. It could be other worlds, imagined worlds, or a hypothetical question they’re keen to explore. But for me, my interest is usually piqued by a real-life person, most often a fascinating female case-study who’s done something terrible. I love to start from that point and imagine what’s come before: how did this evil emerge? What made this person who they are? Why?
Before I started writing The Truth, I was inspired by a collection of real people who’ve all committed the same sociopathic crime and, though I can’t go into detail about the specifics, as soon as I heard about them I couldn’t do anything else until I’d written a version of their stories myself.
The Liars, inspiration came from a number of toxic women I’d worked with, but, more interesting than their devious and despicable behaviour, was what made them that way. I read about how modern office culture favours competition and actively encourages employees to cut-down their competitors rather than collaborate, and thus the office-culture at the heart of the story was born.
As I sit down to work on my third novel for Aria Fiction, I will follow the same process, so, if you hear about any deranged and dastardly women: send them my way!
Naomi Joy is the pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.
My ears prick, and I tune into the crescendo of footsteps, the turn of a lock, the twist of a doorknob. I push my laptop under the bed, determined to keep my blog a secret. It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just… It thuds as it hits the damask rug beneath and I recoil my arm quickly, pulling the covers back over my body and up around my neck to make it looks as though I’ve been sleeping rather than typing, but this sudden movement throws fistfuls of confetti-dust into the splinters of light in the room and I worry he’ll suspect that I’ve been up to something.
in,’ I reply.
dressing gown fans as the door opens, the gust catching the silk sleeve and
part of the body, transforming it, for a second, from inanimate object to
darling. How are you feeling?’
He peers at me through full-moon black-rimmed spectacles, the paper-thin skin beneath his eyes tinged purple – not enough sleep – his long fingers curled around the door handle. His carefully groomed moustache quivers above his top lip flicked up at the ends. He’s excited about something.
better?’ he asks.
I croak from my resting place. ‘I still feel like death.’
walks towards me, eyebrows crooked, wedding ring flashing as he passes through
the bursts of sunlight. He dabs the sweat slathering my brow and folds back the
duvet gently, eager to help, but the movement releases the smell of my own
stench into the otherwise beautiful room. His lips pucker in response. He tries
not to gag.
want to take you somewhere today,’ he says, bitter coffee on his breath.
my head fully towards him and we lock eyes.
I ask too quickly, too eagerly, droplets pooling anew in the curve of my lower
excavation. I thought it might make you feel better.’
smile, elated for a moment, then look away, my eyes on the opposite wall. There
are a couple of problems with this suggestion. The first: he’s promised this
before. I must not get my hopes up. The second: I am sick, deathly unwell, and,
though I have the will to leave, I’m not sure there’s any possible way that I
can. My stomach twists and jealousy rumbles in its pit. He is well. He can go
wherever he likes. He can work and, better still, he loves his job. Anthony’s a
famous archaeologist and, although that might sound oxymoronic, to those in the
industry he’s a rock star. Literally.
love to,’ I answer.
Despite my reservations, I am hopeful that I will go outside today. In fact, it is imperative that I do; Anthony is nothing but kind and patient with me and yet my brain is turning me against him, doubting his intentions. If I could just find the strength to ignore the searing pain in my abdomen, the tightness in my chest, the raging sweats, the all-consuming itch of my skin, the fire beneath, things would start to improve, we’d get back to who we were before. I know we would. My heart thumps, already exhausted, as I heave my reluctant body up to a seated position and swing my feet to the floor. I balance on the edge of the mattress, letting the black spots from my headrush pass, and, just as I’m about to stand, my toes hit the edge of my laptop hidden beneath the bed, making me jump. I glance behind me, hoping he won’t have noticed.
then,’ he says softly, taking my hand. ‘Time for your medicine.’
pills land in my palm – Antriptophene – and for once I stutter at what he’s given
me: I don’t recognise this brand and I’m immediately suspicious of it. I look
at the long drink of lukewarm water left on the bedside table overnight, coated
now with a thin film of dust. Something doesn’t feel right.
doctor’s recommended them, they’re supposed to be excellent.’
at the pills again, at the blocky red writing atop bright orange casing and
make a decision.
not taking these.’
face breaks with lines, lips curling at my refusal, shocked that I would even
question what he’s giving me. Taken aback, he stalls, then relents, folding
them into his hand and leaving the room without another word, his tall frame
pausing momentarily in the light of the doorway.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in return for an honest review.
‘Lies, Lies, Lies’, deals with serious contemporary issues, has characters who are hard to empathise with, and yet, it is a compulsive read.
It starts with a lie, and as it infolds the web of lies intensifies. Simon is an alcoholic, he tells so many lies to hide the extent of his addiction. When he stumbles upon an uncomfortable secret, alcohol is his solace, but his lies are less believable and Daisy. his usually forgiving wife is losing patience. Daisy protects her daughter at all costs., increasingly she feels it’s Simon she needs to protect her from. His descent into alcoholism is accelerating, and the changes of keeping a secret and their family intact recede.
The first part of the book focuses on Simon’s alcoholism, how it affects him, Daisy and Millie their six-year-old daughter. For me this part of the story is hard going, it is authentic and believable, but a little long. The second part of the story is better. Faster paced, the hint that everything isn’t quite how it seems. The final part is suspenseful and shocking. The lies fall apart and the truth is finally revealed. The plot twists, are realistic, even though I guessed some, others are not revealed until the very end.
This book is primarily a family drama, an exploration of how addiction can damage family life. Sacrifice, secrets nd suspense all feature in this story, and the menace increases as the final chapters.reveal the truth.
This believable, claustrophobic story for fans of family drama and domestic thrillers.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House- Cornerstone- Century via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Complex, damaged characters, a terrible tragedy, an innocent survivor, and a house full of secrets. Told from three points of view, the dark and suspenseful family drama is painstakingly revealed, through the eyes of the people who were there.
The relentless plot conceals as much as it reveals, evil is an undercurrent of this story, but it’s also about weakness, survival and emotional damage.
The contemporary, urban setting gives the plot its authenticity. In the current culture of child abuse scandals, the terrible events explored, and their outcome, seem credible and are all the more chilling because of this.
The story has a transparency that I didn’t expect. You can unpick what happened through the three narratives, and I did manage to unravel most of it, but you are never sure if the protagonists are reliable. They are emotionally damaged children, victims of abusive treatment.
The characters are well written, you do empathise with them, and dislike those who should have been taking care of them.
‘The Family Upstairs’ is a noir family drama, with a realistic contemporary setting and layers of suspense and emotional angst, that make you believe that it could really happen, in a world where no one looks too deeply into the inhabitants and events of the house next door.
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?