Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Starter Wife – Nina Laurin – 4*#Review @MulhollandUK @HodderBooks @HodderFiction @NinaLaurinBooks #PsychologicalThriller #Suspense #DomesticThriller

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.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton UK – Mulholland Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Forget My Name – J.S. Monroe – #BlogTour – 5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @JSThrillers #Paperback #PsychologicalThriller #Author #Interview

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.

One of them is lying.

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Interview Questions – J S Monroe

What inspired you to write this story?

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…

Forget My Name – Back Cover

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

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Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, Suspense

The Most Difficult Thing – Charlotte Philby @HarperFiction @BoroughPress @philbycharlotte @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #domesticsuspense #spy #psychologicalthriller 4* #Review #TheMostDifficultThing

On the surface, Anna Witherall personifies everything the aspirational magazine she works for represents. Married to her university boyfriend David, she has a beautiful home and gorgeous three-year-old twin daughters, Stella and Rose. But beneath the veneer of success and happiness, Anna is hiding a dark secret, one that threatens to unravel everything she has worked so hard to create.

As Anna finds herself drawn into the dark and highly controlled world of secret intelligence, she is forced to question her family’s safety, and her own. Only one thing is certain: in order to protect her children, she must leave them, forever. 

And someone is watching. Someone she thought she could trust. Someone who is determined to make them all pay.

Amazon UK

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – The Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A complex fusion of psychological and spy thriller with domestic suspense makes ‘The Most Difficult Thing’ an intriguing, poignant, riveting read.

Anna is leaving her children, her husband, her successful career because she has no choice, but does she? Told from Anna and later Maria’s points of view, the story moves between the present and the past exploring how Anna finds herself with such a terrible choice.

Anna is an unreliable protagonist, emotionally damaged from a tragic accident in her past, and her parents’ reaction to it, she seeks anonymity at university, changing her name, family background and meeting Meg and David. Her choices are always questionable once she leaves university. Ripe for manipulation, and craving acceptance and love, her life is tangled in a web of deceit and dangerous secrets that threaten her life and her sanity.

Maria is out for revenge and finds the opportunity for it in a fatalistic way.

The story is detailed, with many timeline changes. The menacing ethos of the plot is disturbing, the evil of rich, politically connected individuals, uses the protagonists as pawns in a chess game. The sense of hopelessness and loss is profound, but there is enlightenment in unexpected places and a glimmer of a chance of justice for the victims.

There are many twists in this story, some expected, some not. Particularly in the closing chapters, the story is challenging, you need to concentrate, otherwise, you will miss the clues to discover the true state of events. The book ends with a question, about Anna’s future, which could go either way.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller

Dead Inside @Noelle Holten 4* #Review @KillerReads @nholten40 #Crime #Thriller #DomesticAbuse #DCMaggieJamieson #deadinside

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins – Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story is a slow burner, I struggled a little with the beginning, there are many characters to meet, and the reader is thrown straight into episodes of domestic abuse, which is always difficult to read. The style is gritty, and no holds barred and takes a little getting used to. The characters are well written and evoke strong emotion, either empathy or hate, and you quickly become invested in their lives and what happens to them matters.

The setting is notably authentic, well researched and believable. The plot raises contemporary issues and has clever twists, which explore the moral dilemmas, in addition to the crimes committed.

By the middle, I was hooked and kept turning the pages, One of the protagonists, both exasperates and amazes the reader. Her circumstances are horrific and you want her to dig deep and escape, but you have to imagine what years of systematic abuse can do, to understand her motivations and reactions.

I did guess the outcome, but that is part of the enjoyment for me. I like the gritty realism of the writing style and the focus it shines on a major contemporary problem. The questions raised, at the end of the story, concerning DC Maggie Jamieson, intrigue, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

Little Darlings -Melanie Golding – 5* #Review – #Author #Interview @HQStories @HQDigital @mk_golding #Thriller #MentalHealth #Folklore #WednesdayWisdom #WednesdayThoughts

THE TWINS ARE CRYING. 
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING. 
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.

Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?

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 Little Darlings –  Blog Tour – Interview Questions – Melanie Golding

What inspired you to write this story?

I began with a re-telling of an obscure folktale which features in the book, A Brewery of Eggshells. After a while, I started thinking about who thought it up in the first place and why. I thought maybe it was actually about postpartum depression and psychosis. Either that or fairies were real….

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

Characters begin as amalgamations of people I know; maybe they have one or two opinions in common with someone in real life. After a while, they become real people that live in my head, with no connection to anyone outside of it apart from the few seeds I might have used to create them. Often they are or contain aspects of myself, extrapolated.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

The story comes first, and the characters are part of that; the story wouldn’t be happening to anyone else, it’s always because of something the characters are or are involved in. The setting is very important, but it tends to grow up around the story.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I think writing for many people is unavoidable. However, I did make a conscious choice to switch from writing lyrics and music to writing novels, as performing never seemed to fit around my personal life. I’m so glad I did because it turns out I’m a lot more successful, for whatever reason, at writing novels than being a singer/songwriter.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

All books! I will read anything, everything, always. If there is text in front of my eyes it gets read. In the shower, I have to turn the shampoo bottle away or I’ll keep reading the back of it, over and over.

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

Best thing: solitude

Worst thing: loneliness

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

Where to start with this unusual thriller. It is a curious mix of folklore and medicine, seen from Lauren’s point of view, she is acting sanely to ensure her babies are safe. Seen from a medical perspective she has mental health issues, most likely puerperal psychosis. The question is what do you believe, and even at the end of the story, I’m not sure.

This story resonates. In Victorian times any non-conformist behaviour was considered a mental aberration, many young women incarcerated in mental institutions, just because they had children out of wedlock, So perhaps, in this case, the truth lies somewhere in between the folklore and the medicine?

Intense and suspenseful, you are torn between Lauren’s anxiety and need to find her children, and the prospect that if she isn’t stopped innocents will suffer. It’s an intelligent thriller, with many layers and possibilities and a poignant ending that makes you wonder what if.

Lauren is an unreliable protagonist, but she is easy to empathise, even though part of you believes she may be dangerous. Harper is a complex character, a police detective, who is drawn to the case by her own history, and even though she finds answers she is still not sure she’s discovered the truth. The cast of supporting characters are essential and give the story depth and diversion.

Prefacing each chapter with folklore concerning Changelings, .the reader compare them with what is happening in the story, adding to its complexity.

This is a creepy, unsettling thriller, exploring the grey areas of mental health and the power of folklore, why did it originate, was it to explain why some mothers seemed to endanger their children, or is there a twisted truth, we don’t understand?

‘Little Darlings’ is disturbingly different.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller

4* #Review – He Will Kill You – Charlie Gallagher- @JoffeBooks @Gloriouscharlie #Crime #Thriller #Detective

Grace Hughes is effectively a prisoner in her own home. Tortured and controlled by her horrifically violent partner, she dreams of freedom, of safety — even happiness.

CAN MADDIE GET HER SAFE? IF SHE DOESN’T, HE WILL KILL HER.

Detective Maddie Ives now works with a team specialising in getting abused women to safety. She tells Grace to keep a diary, to write everything down so it forms part of the compelling evidence needed to send her abuser to prison.

But Maddie also faces a car bomber who threatens to strike again. DI Harry Blaker returns from injury. Can he and Maddie stop the bomber, find a killer and get Grace safe — whether she helps herself or not?

GRACE’S TIME IS RUNNING OUT. SHE MUST RUN OR DIE.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An excellent police procedural written with authentic details and realistic characters. Maddie Ives is a flawed, but easy to empathise, detective sergeant, she is dedicated, and a little maverick. She understands the importance of rules and regulations, but sometimes the end justifies the means in her opinion.

The suspense driven plot has subtle sub-plots that are integral to the main theme of the story. The beginning is shocking, and it takes you off on a tangent, looking for a certain type of criminal.

As it progresses the theme of domestic violence is explored in painstaking but sensitive detail. You empathise with Grace and want her to find the strength to escape. Again this theme is believable and gives you a good sense of what it’s like to be a police detective in these circumstances.

A powerful twist in the story, turns it in an entirely different way, as the links between events and people are apparent and the sense of urgency increases. Action scenes are important to this story, but there is a good balance of detection and emotion too.

The team dynamic is compelling. Particularly between Detective Inspector Harry Blaker and Detective Sergeant Maddie Ives and this makes you want to see what happens next. This reads well as a standalone, I haven’t read the first book in the series, but if you can do.

Just when you think the surprises are over, another is revealed, something that hopefully will be explored in the next book in the series.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

The Evidence Against You – Gillian McAllister -5* #Review @MichaelJBooks @GillianMAuthor

Amazon UK

It’s the day Izzy English’s father will be released from jail.

She has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories.

But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.

Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial.

But should she give him the benefit of the doubt?

Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?


I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK- Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

You experience a gamut of emotions, as you progress through this story. The plot grips you and makes you keep turning the pages, but amidst the solidly based thriller, are the poignant reminders of something lost, and an ethos of gut-wrenching sadness.

Essentially, this is a story of human frailty, and how one incident can alter lives irreparably. The thriller has a psychological element because of the main protagonist Izzy, who desperately wants to believe what she sees and hears from the important people in her life, but can she?

The plot is cleverly written and plausible, for those who like solving mysteries, the clues are gradually filtered into the story, and it is possible to work out who has done what, but not easily. The story is complex and emotional, you empathise with Izzy and more importantly Gabe, even though you are not sure if he is telling the truth.

The characters are believable and have real depth, the story concentrates primarily on Izzy and Gabe, with historical flashbacks, from their points of view, but for this reader, there is no lessening of interest or skipping over details, it is all-absorbing and heightens the reading pleasure.

A riveting, realistic read for lovers of cerebral thrillers and human behaviour.