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

The Truth Naomi Joy 5*#Review @naomijoyauthor @Aria_Fiction #psychologicalthriller #contemporaryfiction #BlogTour #GuestPost #Extract #DomesticThriller #Noir

Perfect wife. Perfect life. Perfect crime.

Anthony is not the man everyone believes him to be. And Emelia is not the woman he wants her to be.

Theirs 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.

Emelia 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.

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

My Thoughts…

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 TruthNotes 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.

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Extract from ‘The Truth’.

‘Emelia? Are you up?’

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.

He knocks.

‘Come in,’ I reply.

My 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 ghostly spectre.

‘Morning, 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.

‘Any better?’ he asks.

‘No,’ I croak from my resting place. ‘I still feel like death.’

He 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.

‘I want to take you somewhere today,’ he says, bitter coffee on his breath.

I turn my head fully towards him and we lock eyes.

‘Where?’ I ask too quickly, too eagerly, droplets pooling anew in the curve of my lower back.

‘The excavation. I thought it might make you feel better.’

I 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.

‘I’d 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.

‘Now then,’ he says softly, taking my hand. ‘Time for your medicine.’

Two 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.

‘What are these?’

‘Your doctor’s recommended them, they’re supposed to be excellent.’

I look at the pills again, at the blocky red writing atop bright orange casing and make a decision.

‘I’m not taking these.’

Anthony’s 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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

The Determined Lord Hadleigh – 5* #Review Virginia Heath #KingsElite @MillsandBoon @rararesources #BlogTour #HistoricalRomance #RegencyRomance #TuesdayBookBlog

King’s Elite #4

Haunted by Penny Penhurst’s courage on the witness stand, meticulous barrister Lord Hadleigh offers her a housekeeper position at his estate. Despite trying to stay detached, Hadleigh is charmed by her small child and surprised by how much he yearns for this proud woman! Can this he break through his own – and Penny’s – barriers to prove he’s a man she can trust…and love?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Firstly, even though this book is the last in the ‘King’s Elite’, series, it reads well as a standalone. The King’s Elite is a group of brave men who protect the crown against enemies abroad and within. The first three books feature British Spies, Hadleigh is a barrister, very skilled and an integral part of the King’s Elite.

Troubled by his past, he is an advocate for justice and the victims who are collateral damage from their outcome, particularly wives. His meeting with Penny is unorthodox but memorable and it acts as a catalyst for his future actions, which although kindly meant, creates instant conflict with Penny.

Penny, the wife of a traitor, and a victim of domestic abuse values her independence above everything, she sees Hadleigh’s well-meant actions as controlling and dislikes him intensely. Not the most auspicious start to a romance, but circumstances contrive, and chemistry sizzles, and as the sensual heat escalates, the couple learn to trust each other, and their feelings.

The setting; preparing for an important trial, gives the plot and original twist. The romance is lovely, full of conflict and indecision, making the ultimate passion, deserved. There is a further twist, which jeopardises the happy-ever-after but rest assured it ends well. The epilogue perfectly sums up the series, whether you’ve read it all or not.

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace insomnia and start writing them down. Despite that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

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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, 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 Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Thriller

Born Bad -Heather Burnside – 4* #Review #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @heatherbwriter #crime #thriller #paperback

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

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


My Thoughts…

Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.

It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.

This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.

If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.

Guest Post – Heather Burnside

One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.

My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.

Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.

Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing their damaged bodies.

As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?

Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect a person’s mental health.

Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.

Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.

Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside

Oblivious to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to her senses.

Now, as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.

But did she have to kick her?

Adele was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter what.

She thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.

The sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound of taunting.

‘You’re gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’

‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’

When Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.

Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.

After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.

‘Next!’ shouted Miss Marchant.

Adele was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.

‘Now then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.

‘I… I… I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.

‘Didn’t mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.

‘Well, from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young lady?’

Adele, by now very tearful, nodded in response.

‘I can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.

‘Yes,’ Adele replied.

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, Miss Marchant.’

Adele was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the head teacher seemed to relent.

‘Well, Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep that temper of yours well under wraps.’

‘Yes Miss,’ answered Adele.

‘You may go.’

Adele quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern tones.

‘And if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’

‘Yes Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.

Anxious to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed down the corridor and into her classroom.

Mr Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being the best fighter in the school.

As Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.

‘Why are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.

‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.

Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children. Twitter Facebook

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

Without A Trace – Carissa Ann Lynch – 5* #Review @KillerReads @carissaannlynch #Thriller #DomesticThriller #Suspense #Mystery #PsychologicalThriller

Lily’s gone. 
Someone took her. 
Unless she was she never there…

A little girl has gone missing.

Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.

Has Nova’s abusive ex stolen his “little bunny” back for good?

At first, Officer Ellie James assumes this is a clear custody battle. Until she discovers that there are no pictures of the girl and her drawers are full of unused toys and brand new clothes that have never been worn…

Is Ellie searching for a missing child who doesn’t actually exist?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve read quite a few of this author’s stories and they usually involve domestic settings, with a mystery, and cleverly built suspense. The stories are dark and the characters are believable, but usually have secrets, which lead to outcomes most readers wouldn’t foresee.

‘Without A Trace’ is creepy and sinister, told from three main, first-person points of view. The psychological thriller is characterised by an unreliable protagonist. This story has three and accompanied by a plot full of twists, and misinformation. It is difficult for the reader to decide who to believe. What is the truth? What is fiction? Are the answers somewhere in between?

Domestic abuse is the primary theme of this story, it is the reason Nova runs. The twisty plot is always coherent, you can see where this story is going, but you don’t know what you will find when you get there.

The short chapters, providing viewpoints from the three main female protagonists, work well with this suspense led story. The reader has to wait to see what happens next to the character, whilst they are given additional facts and motivations from the other characters.

Poignant and dark this story has important messages, and the final events and resolution of the mystery are realistic and memorable.

Posted in Book Review, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller

4* #Review The Woman in the Lake- Nicola Cornick

‘I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her…’

1765: Lady Isabella Gerard asks her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it. Its shimmering beauty has been tainted by the actions of her husband the night before.

Three months later: Lord Eustace Gerard stands beside the lake looking down at the woman in the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this is not his intended victim…

1996: Fenella Brightwell steals a stunning gown from a stately home. Twenty years later and reeling from the end of an abusive marriage, she wonders if it has cursed her all this time. Now she’s determined to discover the history behind the beautiful golden dress…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Domestic abuse is the dark theme of this timeslip novel. Another central element is the mystical influence of a golden gown, the reader finds characters linked over time, both victims of abusive partners.

The historical detail and setting for the eighteenth century part of the novel are atmospheric and absorbing. Lady Isabella is perhaps the easiest of the characters to empathise, as she suffers her husband’s mental and physical abuse.

Fenella suffers a similar fate in the present day, and its effects force her into the role of an unreliable protagonist. You are not sure of her true motives and whether she really sees what she says she does.

The characters are complex and well written. The story has a supernatural element, which could be explained away as the psychological impact of the women’s abuse but there is always an element of doubt that keeps the reader guessing.

Well-paced with a layered plot, the book keeps you enthralled until the end.