I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
The intensity of this twisty psychological suspense builds with every page turn. Then the secrets begin to unfold, and you can’t stop reading. You have to know, what next?
Told mainly from Beth and Tom’s viewpoints, this story gives the reader insight into the main players, but you’re never sure if they are truthful, and the mystery deepens. A well-written plot makes it easy to read. Beth is so shocked by the police investigation into her husband it’s hard not to empathise with her.
The suspense builds believably and relentlessly. With each revelation, another question is raised. The ending draws all the plot strands together with some notable twists that resonate.
Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmum to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband Mark says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She simply went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.
Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman, Daan, vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamourous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.
DC Clements knows that people disappear all the time – far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run towards, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds, their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the DC believes they are.
How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in return for an honest review.
Compelling yet easy to read, this is addictive psychological suspense. There are elements of police procedural and a twisty mystery to solve. The character dynamics are relatable, and contemporary issues of raising teenagers, misogyny at work and missing persons are highlighted.
The story focuses on two missing persons, Leigh married to Mark with two sons, and Kai, who is married to Daan. Detailed characterisation and relationship dynamics in the early chapters make the shocks and twists impactful. The reader is invested in the characters even though not all are likeable.
The story is passionate, poignant, and often menacing, but it is always addictive reading. Whilst the ending may not be a total surprise if you follow the clues, it remains sinister, suspenseful, and ultimately shocking.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
The Therapist is an addictive blend of cleverly crafted characters, nail-biting psychological suspense and a puzzling plot. Alice and Leo move into the exclusive gated development in London to begin their lives together. Alice is unsure if London life will suit her, but Leo wants to live in London, and she wants to see more of him.
Told exclusively from Alice’s perspective, she soon reveals herself as an unreliable protagonist. A past family tragedy still defines her life, and she sees the change of lifestyle as a way of living again. Alice dislikes The Circle’s sinister ethos. A series of unexpected revelations intensify her emotional vulnerability to breaking point. Everyone has secrets, and Alice isn’t sure who she can trust. The house’s tragic history immerses Alice until her life starts to unravel, pushing her relentlessly towards danger.
Short passages from the past with undefinable characters intensify the sense of menace and suspense towards the climactic, twisted conclusion. The final shocking twist is well disguised. This is a book you won’t want to put down. It will have you checking you’ve locked the doors.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A twisty domestic noir where a tragic event leaves the main protagonist (Dana) vulnerable. Devastated, she doesn’t feel supported by her family and friends. This story explores the darker side of human nature when faced with unexpected tragedy. Most of the characters are unsympathetic, and it’s hard to empathise with them.
Dana is portrayed as an unreliable protagonist, but is she? Her grief and lack of emotional support push her to seek solace from people who have suffered similarly. This introduces new characters, increasing the story’s intensity and builds suspense. The writing is immersive told from Dana’s viewpoint and other characters’ perspectives. Many of the unlikeable characters appear superficial.
The final twists are chilling and dramatic.
Who Do You Trust? – Kirsty Ferguson – Extract
The dark-haired woman sat in the passenger seat of the old station wagon drumming her fingers along the arm rest. Dana was slightly annoyed with her husband, Logan, for making them late. She glanced in the back seat at their four-year-old daughter, Kelsey, who had fallen asleep, mouth open, summer sunlight streaming in on her pretty face. They were driving out to Dana’s parents’ property on the other side of town and they were running behind schedule. Looking out of the window at the bush bordering either side of the road, the sun glinting off the barbed-wire fences, Dana was reminded of her idyllic childhood. The rolled-down window allowed the sounds of the bush, trees groaning together, birds cawing overhead, the scent of the earth, to permeate the car.
Logan drove down the rutted driveway towards the house, pulling up in a cloud of dust. Dana followed him as he took a still-sleeping Kelsey from the back seat and carried her into the spare bedroom. She watched as her husband laid her on the bed gently. Dana then kissed Kelsey’s forehead softly and left the door ajar so she could hear if she called out.
Logan considered his job done and didn’t help Dana unpack the car, leaving her to carry in the camp chair, the salads and Kelsey’s bag. All Logan cared about was getting his cooler full of beer into the back yard where his brother-in-law, James, was already setting up his chair. He had positioned himself downwind of the BBQ where Dana’s father, Robert, was grilling hamburgers, sausages and onions for lunch, while her mother, Mischa, cut and buttered rolls, putting them in a colourful bowl on the wooden table that sat under the shade of the veranda.
‘Hi, Mum, Dad,’ Dana said as she hurried through the front door, giving them a kiss in turn, then hugging her mum awkwardly with one arm, a potato salad wedged under her other arm.
‘Let me take that for you before you drop it,’ her mum said, grasping the purple container and putting it on the table. Things were still strained between Dana and her mother, but Dana viewed the BBQ as a chance to repair, to heal the wounds she carried. Logan was supposed to be an emotional support to her today, but it looked as if he was going to be no help as he was already getting drunk with James.
‘You’re late, love. Lunch is nearly ready. Thought you’d gotten lost,’ her mum said, pointedly looking at the table already covered with food.
‘Sorry, Mum, someone just had to finish watching the game.’ She threw her husband an exasperated look. They’d argued for half an hour before they’d even left the house. She knew Logan loved her, Dana had never doubted his love, not one bit, and he was a great father, but sometimes she wanted to wring his neck. Dana had wanted to leave on time to arrive before her mum and dad sat down to eat.
‘It’s OK, you’re here now and that’s all that matters. Have you said hello to your sister yet?’ her mum asked, striving for casual and failing. She looked at Dana through her lowered lashes, not able to meet her daughter’s penetrating gaze. Dana knew how hard this was for her mum, knowing the part she had played in their bitter argument, but Dana was ready to try and work through it with her.
Kirsty Ferguson is an Australian crime writer whose domestic noir stories centre around strong women and dark topical themes. Kirsty enjoys photography, visiting haunted buildings and spending time with her son. Her first book for Boldwood was Never Ever Tell published in June 2020.
The raven cawed at him, craning its neck unnaturally. As it dug its hooked beak into the mess of dried grass and twigs that made up its nest, a shiny glimmer reflected off a low-hanging bulb. Kjeld edged closer to get a better look. It was a human tooth. With a silver filling.
Detective Kjeld Nygaard wants nothing more than to forget his family and Varsund, the small mining town he once called home, even exist. But while on suspension after his last case went disastrously wrong, his estranged father Stenar leaves a message on Kjeld’s phone claiming he’s seen a murder.
But with no evidence and Stenar suffering from Alzheimer’s, the local police think he must have imagined it. Kjeld can’t stop himself from investigating what actually happened, and soon discovers a body. But when the police start to suspect Stenar, it’s a race against time to discover the truth before it’s lost forever.
But will uncovering the truth expose family secrets that are best left buried?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Atmospheric, claustrophobic and noir, this story set in Northern Sweden brings Detective Kjeld Nygaard home after more than a decade. Finding his father, in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, and his sister furious is not what he wants with his career is imploding, estranged from his family, and his relationship in tatters.
This is an intense story with some noir elements, both in terms of crime and relationships. The Ravens provide excellent visual imagery that gives the story an eerie ethos. The plot is pure Scandi noir with complex characters, dysfunctional relationships and a forbidding and oppressive setting that immerses the reader into Nygaard’s world.
The plot unfolds with several twists and poignant moments. Backstories, weaved into the text, illuminate the main protagonists’ motivations and keep the reader interested.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This domestic suspense story explores the human consequences of love, money and power. It embroils the reader in an intricately built world of abuse, deceit and lust with believable characters and insidious suspense.
Told from two perspectives; journal entries from Nina, the first Mrs Ford and Tabitha, the second Mrs Ford’s past and present points of view. The story draws the reader into two parallel worlds of the rich and poor and explores what someone will do for power and wealth. Tabitha and Nina are both unreliable protagonists, but they both engender the reader’s empathy. Connor is weak and driven by the need for money and not as easy to like. The cast of secondary characters all add to the story and provide its plot twists.
The fast-paced plot builds a world of betrayal and division. It blends introspection and criminal investigation to deliver an absorbing story. I guessed part of the outcome, but that adds to the enjoyment, and the poignant conclusion is both realistic and satisfying.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story demonstrates the claustrophobic and immersive qualities of psychological suspense so well. It begins with a traumatic incident in Regi’s life. The reader knows this is important but not why. Regi’s painful past and mental health issues define her and make everyday life difficult. Her housemates are younger but supportive. The story believably depicts Regis’ OCD, but its repetitive nature is emotionally draining on the reader and slows the pace.
The narrator produces an excellent interpretation of the story and its nuances.
Regi is a complex character, an unreliable protagonist with secrets. The suspense building is good, there are menacing undertones, and some clever changes in plot direction that keep the listener guessing. The focus on social media gives this story an immediacy and relevance.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is an addictive story. The suspense builds as the story progresses, and every chapter brings a new twist. Who to believe? Who is the true antagonist in this claustrophobic, creepy domestic suspense?
Jade tries to make a new start after a messy love affair and subsequent mental health issues. She’s not an easy character to like, or understand, and the extent of her mental health issues are unclear. She makes a good unreliable protagonist.
This is a multi-viewpoint story which adds to the plot’s complexity and suspense. All the neighbours have secrets and are unreliable, especially since one may be the story’s antagonist. This is a well-paced story that held my interest, and the final twist ends the story perfectly.
Prior to turning her attention to writing, Debbie Viggiano was, for more years than she cares to remember, a legal secretary. She lives with her Italian husband, a rescued pooch from Crete, and a very grumpy cat. Occasionally her adult children return home bringing her much joy… apart from when they want to raid the fridge or eat her secret stash of chocolate.
She’s learned too much, too young. Can she break free?
Emily’s dreams come true when her mother marries wealthy painter, David. Thanks to him, Emily’s artistic talents shine. Then he starts teaching her things a 14-year-old shouldn’t know. While Emily breaks free, she’s forced to sleep in a rat-infested alley.
Bad boy Jack has turned his life around. Working as a DJ with ambitions to open a club, he rescues Emily from the streets when he sees a woman in trouble. He doesn’t know she’s still only 15 – and trapped in a dark web of secrets and lies.
David must find Emily and silence her. As he closes in, Jack faces the hardest choice of all. If he saves Emily, he’ll kiss goodbye to his future…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is a disturbing, intense psychological suspense, an insightful and sensitive exploration of domestic and child abuse and the resultant damage. The subject matter is difficult to read. Emily and Jack’s vulnerability and the perversions of David and his ilk are well-written without the need for an overly graphic description. This exploration of a contemporary issue is relatable and sinister because it parallels reality.
The characters are defined, and flawed some are easy to empathise because of their vulnerability. Others are despicable and easy to hate.
Although this more suspense than a thriller, the writing style and structure keep the momentum and make this a page-turner. The pacy plot keeps the reader on edge, the undercurrents of menace apparent and intensify as the story progresses.
This is noir crime creating a gritty, vice-ridden world that you want the protagonists to escape.
British crime thriller writer A.A. Abbott (also known as Helen Blenkinsop) loves to escape with an exciting and emotional read, and that’s what she aims to write too. Based in Bristol, she’s also lived and worked in London and Birmingham. All three cities feature in her pacy suspense thrillers. Her latest psychological thriller, ‘Bright Lies’, begins in North Somerset with a posh art exhibition in Bath. Young Emily meets the man who will change her life and cause her to run away to a squat in Birmingham, work in a nightclub and get further entangled in a web of lies.
To write ‘Bright Lies’, Helen has had advice from thirty beta readers on subjects as varied as police procedure, drug abuse, grooming, art, music, DJing and clubbing. She’s grateful to them and to her editor, Katharine D’Souza, for making huge improvements to the story.
Helen’s earlier 5 book Trail series is a lighter read focused on a vodka business. Snow Mountain is a premium vodka made in the former Soviet Union, and its owners have blood on their hands. The saga follows the fortunes of two families running the business and what happens when they fall out with each other and with a London gangster. Glamorous heroine Kat is the girl readers love to hate at the beginning of the series, but by the last book, she has won them over. Book research for the series included prison life, hotel research and vodka. Helen especially enjoyed a tour and tasting with the helpful folk at the Chase Distillery in Herefordshire.
Like 10% of us, many of Helen’s family are dyslexic. While she is not, she wants her books to be enjoyed by readers with dyslexia and visual impairment too. She publishes her thrillers in a Large Print dyslexia-friendly edition as well as the standard paperback and Kindle versions. (You can also adjust the font on your Kindle to suit your needs.) Audiobooks are definitely on the cards – watch this space!
Helen likes speaking to book groups, business networks and social circles, and reading thrillers and short stories at live fiction events and on Zoom. If you’re a book blogger, litfest organiser, reviewer or simply adore books, she’d love to hear from you.
Helen is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group, and Birmingham’s New Street Authors.