Posted in Book Review

4* Review – Nick Louth – The Body on the Shore

A killer is at work in the supposedly-safe commuter belt.  DCI Gillard needs answers, fast…

Promising architect Peter Young is shot dead at his desk. DCI Craig Gillard is quickly on the scene, looking at what appears to be a brutal and highly professional hit: two bullets, fired with ice-cold calm.

Gillard knows that the most crucial question in solving the crime is one word: Why? Two weeks later, on the Lincolnshire coast, another body is found on a windswept beach. In this case, there is no identity for the young man, just a curious brand burned into his neck….

As the mystery deepens Gillard is plunged into a case without answers, finding himself up against dark forces, people who believe in only two things: blood and a warped code of honour. This time lives are on the line, children’s lives – and his own.

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My Thoughts…

An intricate, well-paced police procedural with an engaging detective and an absorbing plot.

Intrigue and mystery beckon from the start of this story and intensify as it progresses, with three seemingly unrelated serious crimes. DCI Craig Gillard has to try and solve them, keep his bosses happy and avoid an international incident with the help of his dedicated team of detectives, colleagues from the past and his keen intuition.

The crimes are shocking but not overly graphic in description, the conspiracy that surrounds them gives the story a menacing ethos and the final twist is thought-provoking and somewhat poignant. I liked the authenticity of the story and the all the characters are believable. The settings are vividly described and add to the story’s suspense.

A worthwhile read for anyone who likes police crime fiction.

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

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Blog Tour: Keep Her Silent- Theresa Talbot – Guest Post -5* Review

 ‘Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you’

That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large…

When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip-off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Oonagh be the next target…?

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Guest Post- Theresa Talbot Keep Her Silence Blog

Hi, thanks so much for asking me along. I’m Theresa Talbot and Keep Her Silent is the second in the Oonagh O’Neil series. This book has been such a labour of love for me. There are three strands running through the narrative; The unsolved Raphael Killings from the 70s, a woman incarcerated in a secure unit for killing her husband and son, and the tainted blood scandal, where thousands of patients across the world were infected with Hep C & HIV through contaminated blood products. The tainted blood scandal is a real-life horror story. Described by Sir Robert Winston as the ‘worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS’ it has wrecked lives, ripped families apart and destroyed victims hopes & dreams for the future.

Although Keep Her Silent is a work of fiction, this part of the story is based on real characters and real-life events. I’ve worked closely with one of the victims and sadly his story is one of nightmares. I’m a journalist, and although, yes I was aware of the scandal, I had no idea of the impact it had and continues to have on the victims.

I decided on a real-life crime as the main backdrop to my story and in particular this one for several reasons. I’ve always been completely fascinated by institutionalised crime; the way that criminal activity is carried out under the full glare of the public, with very few, if any, perpetrators ever facing justice. We only need to glance back a few years to Jimmy Saville, Paedophile rings within religious orders, and corrupt MPs who never face trial.

For me it’s more than a scandal, more than a tragedy  – it’s the biggest crime of the 20th century and beyond. For those unfamiliar with the background: In the 70s & 80s, thousands of haemophiliacs and blood transfusion patients were given contaminated blood products, and subsequently went on to develop Hepatitis and HIV. It was soon discovered that pharmaceutical companies making the products were using ‘skid-row donors’ – paying prisoners, drugs addict & sex workers for each donation, with no rigorous checks on where the blood came from. Thousands of people – including children – have died as a result and many more left disabled, yet despite this not one person has faced criminal prosecution in this country. Pharmaceutical giants made millions from this, they put profit before the suffering of mankind, and were given the full protection of the law. Threading this theme through a crime novel seemed natural to me – readers invest in characters, they sit up and take notice of the human tragedy, they laugh and cry and understand how lives are affected – so much more than if they read about it in a newspaper, or see a news item about it.

That said, I’ve never felt so nervous about writing as I was with this book. I worked very closely with one of the victims and was so desperate to get it right and do him justice. He’d been so open and honest, telling his story. He’s lived with this every day for over forty years. I was acutely aware that Keep Her Silent is a work of fiction, and will mainly be read for entertainment – I needed to ensure that it packed a punch. My research took me down so many paths, I was almost overwhelmed at one stage. There was so much suffering and human tragedy and was still happening in plain sight yet no-one seemed to care.

Despite the dark subject matter, the book is injected with humour. Like life, we often use humour to shed light on tragic situations; otherwise, it would become too heavy..

My main character Ooagh O’Neil is a journalist. She’s flawed and troubled and sometimes gets it wrong – but readers tell me they can identify with her. On the surface, she seems to have a charmed life, but underneath chaos ensues. When she discovers the full horrors of the tainted blood scandal she’s like a dog with a bone and won’t let go. Obviously, there could be no ‘happy ever after’ to this book. This is a real-life tragedy that’s still waiting for justice. Instead, I used my own dramatic licence to give some much-needed resolution to this. I felt such a huge responsibility to everyone affected to get it right. Thankfully, so far, it’s had a very positive response

My Thoughts…

Another episode of dangerous investigative journalism with Oonagh O’Neil that unfolds with the unpredictability of real life and grips the reader with its intensity and menace.

If you haven’t met Oonagh previously you’ve missed out, but this story reads well as a standalone, with enough backstory to illuminate Oonagh as a character and provide the pertinent details on her relationships, motivations and demons.

There are both historic and present timelines and several plot threads that are intricately woven to reveal a polished ending. The writing style draws you in until enthralled you have to know what happens next. The themes are shocking, more so because they highlight real-life conspiracy.

A unique combination of crime, conspiracy and killing seen through the eyes of a quirky, on the edge investigative journalist and a cynical, but thorough policeman makes this a memorable story and a series that I can’t wait to continue.

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

Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many, she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel.

Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Book Review

Betty Rowlands – 5*Review Murder at Hawthorn Cottage

Meet Melissa: cat lover, caring mother… daring detective? 

Melissa Craig is absolutely delighted with her new life in an old crumbling cottage, spending her days pruning the primroses and getting to know Binkie, the ginger cat next door. She only wishes she had made the move to the countryside sooner.

But when a knock at the door brings news of a shocking discovery, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a baffling mystery: the bones of a young woman have been found in the woods just behind her new home.

Perhaps the little village of Upper Bembury is not as idyllic as it first seemed? 

Strange phone calls in the night convince Melissa that the police are barking up completely the wrong tree, so she can’t resist doing a little digging of her own. From the bingo hall to the beauty salon and beyond, her search ruffles a few feathers and uncovers many of the village’s most scandalous secrets, but gets her no closer to finding the culprit…

The discovery of a tatty old photograph in a drawer is the final piece of the puzzle she needs, but as a newcomer in this close-knit community, does Melissa have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary murder mystery alone?

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My Thoughts…

The quintessential cosy mystery a beautiful rural setting, a village full of quirky, nosy characters and female crime writer who courts danger and trouble in the same way the characters in her books do.

Melissa seems much older than her mid-forties, I have to admit I imagine Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher when I visualise her but apart from this misconception, she is the perfect protagonist for a cosy mystery. Initially published under a different title in the twentieth century, the book is only dated by its philosophy on relationships and women living on their own.

The storyline is fast-paced and engaging. Melissa’s independent character and mindset come across well in the story, and the plot twists are just the right side of believable. The suspense in the final chapters builds to adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery.

An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.

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

Posted in Book Review

No Time to Cry -4* Review – James Oswald

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4* Review- Sarah Flint – Broken Dolls- Blog Tour- Guest Post

A baby lies abandoned amongst the rubbish; her tiny face as white as alabaster, her body as stiff as a miniature doll.

A young prostitute lies beaten, her figure lying like a mannequin on the frozen concrete, her blood spilt, her life ebbing away.

As DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and her boss DI Hunter struggle to identify the victim from the violator their hunt brings them to the crack houses of Lambeth, littered with damaged people, their lives scarred by tragedy and violence, most broken beyond repair.

As further lives hang in the balance, Charlie must empower the weak to speak out against those who seek to cause harm. But can a broken doll ever truly be mended; or will the wounds of the past, fashion the events of the future?

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Guest  Post – Sarah Flint

This is me!

When I was asked to write a guest post about Broken Dolls I wasn’t sure what I could add to previous articles; so I have decided to tell you a little more about what makes me tick.

So please bear with me. It will be my most personal post, and I hope it will give readers a sense of what I have achieved – and what they too could achieve.

I have always loved a challenge; in fact, I thrive on them. Each morning when I wake up, I set myself a few daily goals. The tasks are attainable. I do not set myself goals that would lead to failure – at least not too often!

I may have a book to plan or write or edit. I might have a guest post, questions to answer, social media considerations. So every day, I sit down and get going. I am not constrained by timings – apart from official deadlines. I write when I can, as much or as little as I can – but I write. Some days will only be a page, other days will be a whole chapter, yet others will see me sitting in front of my computer struggling to find the right words. On these occasions I do not beat myself up – I go for a walk. Most of my ideas stem from times when I have walked, quiet and alone, my mind buzzing with ideas – which are then transferred to paper on my return.

My books take shape as I write them. I know the beginning and the end, but what happens in the middle is usually a matter of luck and touching a lot of wood. It is a challenge! But like I said I thrive on a challenge!

In 2005, having lost a much-loved brother to cancer, I ran the London marathon with all of my seven surviving siblings. It wasn’t easy but with each day came a new goal; a hundred metres to start, then a block, then 1 mile, 2 miles, 5 miles, a half-marathon, until reaching the finishing post at The Mall, in 5 hours, 35 minutes (the toilet stop at the beginning cost me 20 minutes – never queue behind a man!!)

It was an amazing achievement and to have completed it with my large, close-knit family made it very special, as was the £43k  passed on to our family charities.

In March 2018, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with my partner, my niece and an incredible group of like-minded people of both sexes, and all ages. Prior to this, I had gained weight – a constant battle, so training started small – walking 1-2 miles a day, then 4-5, then a week with my sister hiking the Camino de Santiago, and finally training in the Italian Dolomites.

From little steps….to the highest peak in Africa, with stunning views of glaciers and craters, and a sunrise above the clouds on our summit morning that was truly spectacular.

And so to now – my latest challenge!

In the last month, I have received a proposal of marriage from my beautiful partner, watched my eldest daughter get married to a lovely Greek Cypriot man – and been diagnosed with breast cancer! With the smooth, comes the rough – and the rough this time will be hard.

How could I have known, when I shed a tear watching the six brave women celebrities bearing all for the female Full Monty, that I too would be fighting the same battle?

How could I have known, when my family clubbed together to provide the means for one of our siblings to attend my daughter’s wedding ‘because none of us are getting any younger’, that it would be me, as the youngest, providing the angst.

I didn’t know, but I do now – and I have accepted the challenge.

Two days after ‘Broken Dolls’ is published I will be on the operating table facing the first major step. So far I have taken only small ones, the preparatory scans, the mammograms, biopsies, diagnosis. I have listened to my options. I have heard the risks. I have felt fear. I still do. I am grieving for the forthcoming loss of part of my body, that I have held dear, but I also know that I have to take one step at a time, a goal a day, nothing too much, achievable, small victories.

Charlie and Hunter have cases to solve and battles to face. They might stumble along the way, but they are true to their beliefs and will conquer in the end. As will I!

So please, share this post to as many women (and men) as you can, while I am recovering from this first hurdle, and excuse my absence on social media. You, along with my family and friends are part of my team, and if I can help any other person going through the same sort of challenge, then please feel free to contact me, and I will get back to you as soon as I am able.

Thank you

Sarah xx

My Thoughts…

A gritty, authentic crime thriller, which left me feeling sad at the loss of life and opportunity for the young girls. Everything in this novel is believable, and that makes it compelling and disturbing.

I haven’t read the previous books in the series, and although this is a standalone story regarding the crime’s committed, there are events in the detectives’ pasts that affect their present lives I’m not aware of, which affected my enjoyment of the overall story.

A well-written, contemporary crime thriller which highlights the abuse of young girls and the problems of drug abuse. There are significant twists, especially at the end, enough to make me want to know what the next case will be for these detectives.

 

With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years, Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partnerhttps://www.facebook.com/SarahFlintBooks and has three older daughters. 

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All the Hidden Truths – Claire Askew – 5* Review

This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

But no one can say why.

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.

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My Thoughts…

A behind the headlines story that explores what happens after the tragic mass shooting until all ‘The Hidden Truths’ are revealed. Told from an exclusively female point of view, the stories of the teenage killer’s mother, the first victim’s mother and the newly promoted detective inspector tell a harrowing tale, that is unerringly authentic and disturbing. 

The story highlights the police and the press roles and relationship; the ruthless journalist is contemptible, furthering his career through the misery and misfortune of others. The ‘true life’ crime approach to this thriller is original, realistic and contemporary. The emotions of the three protagonists as they come to terms with the tragedy and find the answers make this story remarkable and memorable.

A new perspective on the psychological crime thriller that embraces the contemporary fascination with family dynamics and secrets in an empathic, thought-provoking way.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder& Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Do Not Disturb- 4* Review – Claire Douglas

COULD YOUR DREAM HOME BE YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family. And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives.

Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see. It’s seventeen years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life? Is Selena running from something too? Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it . . .

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My Thoughts…

Family, drama meets murder-mystery with a gothic twist, this story has many elements and lots of characters, maybe a few more than readers are comfortable with?

Kirsty and her family escape to the country for a better life and to leave their troubles behind. Renovating the dream home and business comes at a price and so financial help from Kirsty’s mum is welcome but her controlling nature less so.

An unexpected and somewhat unwelcome face from Kirsty’s past causes additional tension. New visitors add to the cast of characters and introduce a gothic thread to the plot when one guest hints at a dark history for the house. Then disaster strikes and Kirsty and her family feel threatened, and the business hangs in the balance.

Tense, complex with misinformation and suspects worthy of any murder mystery but the underlying family secrets add a sinister dimension, and the ending is well crafted and may surprise you.

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

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Redemption- Candice Fox – 5* Review

When former detective Ted Conkaffey is wrongly accused of abducting a teenage girl, he hopes the Queensland town of Crimson Lake will be the perfect place to disappear.

But nowhere is safe from the girl’s devastated father. Dale Bingley has worked out a brutal revenge plan – and if Ted doesn’t help find his daughter’s real abductor, he’ll be the first casualty.

Meanwhile, in a nearby roadside hovel, the bodies of two young bartenders lie on the beer-sodden floor. As a homicide investigation unravels, Ted and his unlikely ally private detective Amanda Pharrell are brought in to assist on the case.

While Ted fights to clear his own name, their hunt for the killer will draw them into a violent dance with evil.

Redemption is certainly on the cards – but it may well cost them their lives…

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My Thoughts…

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but there is enough information in this second book to position the characters and let the reader know what motivates them and what their demons are.

The setting is atmospheric and has intrinsic interest for a reader unfamiliar with the Australian outback. The characters are unique and vividly depicted. Both detectives are victims of injustice, and this draws them together. There are murders to solve, reputations and lives to reclaim and dramatic irony in this action-packed, detailed and suspenseful to the last moment story.

An enthralling crime thriller with an original plot.

I received a copy of this book from Random HouseUK – Cornerstone, Arrow via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Eva Leigh – From Duke till Dawn – Extract and 4* Review

 

‘It’s not my habit to seduce impoverished widows…’

The Duke of Greyland lost his heart – and a princely sum – to a charming, beautiful and destitute widow who, after one passionate night, vanished without a trace. Cassandra Blair grew up on the city streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a rich mark – to be fleeced and forgotten – only she’d never forgotten him.

Years later, chance brings them together again, in a London gaming hell. Grayland is desperate to have her… never suspecting everything about his lover was a lie. But finding herself in dire financial straits, at risk of losing everything, Cassandra has no choice but to beg the man she betrayed for help.

The proud Duke will assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid! But can the real Cassandra – the smart, streetwise survivor – steal his heart all over again?

Book one in the Scandalous Ladies of London series

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Hot romance, deep emotion and a glimpse into the seedier side of Regency England.

A different trope from the usual Regency romance, this story has some originality, an anti-heroine character rather than an anti-hero. The story creates an interesting relationship between the Duke and the con- artist, but even though she fools him once, Cassandra ultimately needs his help and position to survive, which detracts from her independence.

The Duke of Greyland lacks the arrogance customarily associated with his rank in Regency romance. He has many appealing traits, not least his passionate nature and support of those less fortunate than he. However, he does lack authenticity.

This story scores highly for sensuality, the connection between the Duke and Cassandra is hot, and the love scenes leave little to the imagination. They explain why the Duke acts as he does and their deepening emotional attachment underlines every kiss.

Overall this is a lovely story, which superficially explores the seedier side of Regency England while delivering a passionate love story.

I received a copy of this book from Mills&Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Extract:- Eva Leigh’s  ‘From Duke till ‘Dawn’

Chapter 1

London, England 1817

A woman laughed, and Alexander Lewis, Duke of Greyland felt the sound like a gunshot to his chest.

It was a very pleasant laugh, low and musical rather than shrill and forced, yet it sounded like The Lost Queen’s laugh. Alex could not resist the urge to glance over his shoulder as he left the Eagle chophouse. He’d fancifully taken to calling her The Lost Queen, though she was most assuredly a mortal woman. Had she somehow appeared on a busy London street at dusk? The last time he’d seen her had been two years ago, in the spa town of Cheltenham, in his bed, asleep and naked.

The owner of the laugh turned out to be a completely different woman— brunette rather than blonde, petite and round rather than lithe and willowy. She caught Alex staring and raised her eyebrows. He bowed gravely in response, then continued toward the curb.

Night came on in indigo waves, but the shops spilled golden light in radiant patches onto the street. The hardworking citizens of London continued to toil as the upper echelons began their evening revelries. Crowds thronged the sidewalk, while wagons, carriages, and people on horseback crammed the streets. A handful of pedestrians recognized Alex and politely curtsied or tipped their hats, murmuring, “Good evening, Your Grace.” Though he was in no mood for politeness, responsibility and virtue were his constant companions— had been his whole life— and so rather than snapping, “Go to the devil, damn you!” he merely nodded in greeting.

He’d done his duty. He’d been seen in public, rather than disappearing into the cavernous chambers of his Mayfair mansion, where he could lick his wounds in peace.

The trouble with being a duke was that he always had to do his duty. “You are the pinnacle of British Society,” his father had often said to him. “The world looks to you for guidance. So you must lead by example. Be their True North.”

This evening, before dining, Alex had taken a very conspicuous turn up and down Bond Street, making certain that he was seen by many consequential— and loose-lipped— figures in the ton. Word would soon spread that the Duke of Greyland was not holed up, sulking in seclusion. His honor as one of Society’s bulwarks would not be felled by something as insignificant as his failed marriage suit to Lady Emmeline Birks. The Dukes of Greyland had stood strong against Roundheads, Jacobites, and countless other threats against Britain. One girl barely out of the schoolroom could hardly damage Alex’s ducal armor.

But that armor had been dented by The Lost Queen. Far deeper than he would have expected.

Standing on the curb, he signaled for his carriage, which pulled out of the mews. He tugged on his spotless gloves as he waited and adjusted the brim of his black beaver hat to make certain it sat properly on his head. “Always maintain a faultless appearance,” his father had reminded him again and again. “The slightest bit of disorder in your dress can lead to rampant speculation about the stability of your affairs. This, we cannot tolerate. The nation demands nothing less than perfection.”

Alex’s father had been dead for ten years, but that didn’t keep the serious, sober man’s voice from his mind. It was part of him now— his role as one of the most powerful men in England and the responsibilities that role carried with it. Not once did he ever let frivolities distract him from his duties.

Except for one time . . .

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Jar of Hearts – 5* Review – Jennifer Hillier

Aged just 16, Geo’s best friend Angela disappeared without a trace. Years later, Angela’s body is discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home, revealed as yet another victim of the notorious serial killer Calvin James. Geo’s high-school boyfriend.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what had happened and told no one, carrying the secret until she was arrested and sent to prison. Why would any woman protect a man capable of committing such a heinous crime? Geo had her reasons…

To Geo, Calvin is more than a monster, a serial killer with no remorse. He is something else entirely. And while Geo did her time, Calvin escaped and went on the run. Now released, Geo is ready to start over. But then the bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela…

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My Thoughts…

Reading the title, I wasn’t sure if I was about to embark on a romantic tale or a macabre journey. ‘A Jar of Hearts’ is neither of these, although it does feature an unlikely romantic and serial killings.

It’s a thriller about retribution, forgiveness, obsession and lies. Geo rises like a phoenix from the ashes in the aftermath of her friend’s disappearance. Years later she finds that her lies come back to haunt her and then her life implodes. Geo keeps ‘The Jar of Hearts’ as a reminder of that fateful night.

There are many subtle twists in this story, but even if you understand them, they don’t reveal everything. The murders are shocking and graphically portrayed, but only to demonstrate the murder’s state of mind. The ending is both poignant and disturbing and perfect for this absorbing book.

Suspenseful, surprisingly and often shocking; ‘A Jar of Hearts’ is a compelling read.

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