Posted in Book Review

A Place to Remember – Jenn McLeod – 5* Review

A multi-generational contemporary romantic saga set in a cattle ranch in Central Queensland, Australia.

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year-old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate.

The young fifth-generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

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A Place to Remember


Candlebark Creek, 1985–6

Chapter 1

Young Ava

The massive slab of varnished wood was the biggest tabletop twenty-seven-year-old Ava had ever seen. Still, she almost doubted it could hide the nervous jig in her legs that both hands pressing firmly on failed to stop. She hoped the folder’s contents would be enough to convince the lady of the house that she was perfect for the position.

‘I did say on the telephone that the role is a varied one and not all cookery and not only when we have guests staying. No one on a property like Ivy-May can afford to be picky or precious about their jobs.’ It was fifteen minutes into the interview, and the woman’s expression had yet to shift into anything close to a smile. ‘Your time off is your own, but we all do our share.’

Marjorie Tate paused before slowly rolling up her sleeves as if driving home the point. The action offered Ava a glimpse of hardworking hands: stubby and tanned with a simple gold wedding band and bitten-down nails. Somewhere around forty or forty-five, the B-and-B operator wasn’t old, just plain, as though all her effort went into something other than herself.

‘I do consider myself versatile, Mrs Tate, and I’m always keen to learn new things. I’d also have little need for days off in a town like Candlebark Creek. There aren’t many places to go or things to do.’

For that careless statement, Ava got a raised eyebrow and a minute of the clock ticking above the stove.

‘You seem young to have had so many jobs, although you have provided an impressive CV and an extensive portfolio of dishes.’

‘Thirteen years in the workforce.’ Ava sat straight and proud. ‘The last eleven in hospitality.’ She could see the woman mentally subtracting eleven from twenty-seven. ‘And I was never fired from a job,’ she added, sounding a little too enthusiastic. ‘Some were set contracts, some seasonal. Hospitality can be like that.’

‘Ivy-May B-and-B might be small and out of the way, but I’m aware of the industry’s many facets.’ Marjorie Tate flicked through the plastic sleeves of the folder. She stopped again on the résumé at the front. ‘You have no school certificate listed.’

‘I left school when I turned fifteen.’

‘Before exams?’ Another raised eyebrow, another flick through the folder’s many photographs.

Never before had Ava’s lack of formal qualifications been an issue. Hands-on experience was what landed you a kitchen job, and every role, from waiting tables to making desserts, had added to Ava’s expertise and skills. As confident as she was about her abilities, she still sat with her hands clasped between her knees, fingers crossed.

‘Our son finished high school a couple of years ago and did well. John’s a bit of a dreamer, although there’s no doubting his passion for the land.’ The grazier’s wife with the moon-shaped face – taut, shiny skin, rosy cheeks – reminded Ava of a wooden babushka doll, with its rotund face and multiple hidden layers. The unexpected softness in her voice when she’d spoken her son’s name revealed one. ‘Naturally, he was keen to finish studying early to work with his father. John’s very capable and quite mature for his age. Children in these parts tend to grow up quickly,’ she added. ‘No choice out here. Operating heavy machinery and working bulls requires a sensible head on robust shoulders. But as much as the property had needed more hands at the time, I insisted John stay on at school.’ She peered over the top of thick black spectacle frames. ‘The value of a proper education should not be underestimated. Dreams are more achievable with a thorough education, and it shows discipline. Smart employers insist on such qualities.’

Ava nodded, forcing a smile. Was the woman telling her she was no longer a suitable candidate? Should she try speaking to her feminine side and explain what had happened to drive her from the city to hide in an out-of-the-way country town? Marjorie Tate was more likely to find fault because Ava had allowed herself to be put in such a position in the first place. Unfortunately, Zac had not come with a warning plastered on his forehead. At least he couldn’t find her here and affect her employment chances.

Could he?

My Thoughts…

It’s rare for a story to make me cry, but this tale of lost chances and the abiding love of a mother and daughter did. An epic tale, set in Queensland, Austrailia, Ava and Nina’s story spans over thirty years. You can’t recapture the past, but Ava finds it is not the case but is she prepared to risk her heart again?

Vividly described, you get a sense of the wildness and beauty of the dramatic setting, but mostly the land is unforgiving and demands everything from those who work it. I’ve never visited Australia and probably never will, but this story lets me travel there in my imagination.

It takes a while to get into this story, but each twist and heartbreak and risk Ava takes, draws you into her world past and present until you are emotionally involved and want her to have a happy ending, even when it seems unlikely.

The characters are believable, and their life events realistic, not everything falls into place as Ava’s past collides with her present, but there is hope. She is successful in her career and more importantly her family life, even though she has never forgotten the man she loved and left.

I read the ‘Thorn Birds’ about forty years ago when I was a teenager and still remember it now, and similarly, I think the emotion and poignancy of this story will stay with me too. If you get the chance, read this.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


After leaving the corporate working world, Jenn J. McLeod decided to travel Australia in a fifth-wheeler caravan and fulfil her lifelong ambition to write. She has since published four novels.


Twitter: @jennjmcleod

Facebook: JennJMcLeod.books



Posted in Book Review

Ottercombe Bay – 5* Review Bella Osborne – Gin and Trouble #2

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

Amazon UK


My Thoughts…

With a title like ‘Gin and Trouble’, you get an inkling that everything isn’t going to go smoothly for the folks in Ottercombe bay. This is my first taste of Ottercombe bay, and obviously, it’s better to have read the first book, but there’s enough backstory to make it readable as a standalone and still enjoy it. Not reading the next instalment is not an option as this ends on a cliffhanger and you have to know what happens next.

Daisy last connection with her mother has been stolen, and she is sad. Her mother’s untimely death is shrouded in mystery, which may become more evident as the series progresses. Her unexpected and unwelcome inheritance is the subject of this book, and it’s an idea from Max her nemesis that leads to her renovating the old railway buildings with Max her unlikely but a willing helper. There is definitely, a romance in the making here. More mystery revolves around the return of Max’s father, and there is angst and guilt as Max comes to terms with this.

I loved the characters in this book, realistic and quirky, and the problems associated with renovation and opening a new venture add interest to this lovely story, can’t wait for the next one.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Wife – The Complete Series – M.L.Roberts 5* Review

I loved ‘The Wife’, series by M.L.Roberts and now all four parts are available in one book.

Michael and Ellie are that couple.

The ones who have it all.

Success, charm, trust…but no relationship is perfect, and the events of the past cast a shadow over their charmed life together.

When lecturer Michael starts to mentor a new student, Ellie fears that history is repeating itself. As paranoia takes its ugly hold, it’s clear some things just can’t be forgotten…or forgiven.

Amazon UK


My Thoughts…

 There is a skilful build-up of psychological tension and believable characters. The intense storytelling makes it hard to tell what is real and what is in the main character’s mind, breathtaking suspense and drama. 

Ellie’s tragic past is revealed, which explains much about her current state of mind and motivation. The story is told entirely from Ellie’s point of view, but the actions of others, who touch her life are essential to this story. 

The psychological tension is ramped up. Is  Michael the real villain of this? Or is it all in Ellie’s troubled mind? Maybe Liam isn’t the selfless, knight in shining armour Ellie believes him to be? Ellie thinks she is in control but is she? There are so many questions in this story, which has a dark, sinister ethos. Ellie is in danger but is she her own enemy or is there someone else controlling her life for their own ends. 

Paranoia or intuition, which is it that makes Ellie believe her husband is lying to her? The final chapters of this enthralling, psychological thriller, keep its secrets almost to the end. When you think you know everything there is another breathtaking revelation that leaves you with a chill down your spine.

Ellie’s mental health continues to deteriorate, her marriage to Michael reaches the breaking point, but Liam is more than willing to take his place. Is this what she wants? Ellie’s not sure about anything, but her need for the truth.The outcome of the terrible night that destroyed her is played out, and we find out why she can’t put it out of her mind. While this is not a surprise, it does give you further pieces towards solving the psychological puzzle.

The story continues with its twisty plot. Will Ellie learn the truth or is it all in her mind, the fall out from her night of terror. All is revealed in a nail-biting end to an original, gripping story.

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


Posted in Book Review

The Candle Factory Girl – Tania Crosse 3*Review Blog Tour

1930’s London – A backstreet saga full of hopes, dreams and the fight for survival. 

Work at Price’s Candle Factory in Battersea is tedious for intelligent, seventeen-year-old Hillie Hardwick, but she knows she is lucky to have a job at all.

Her home life is no better, as she constantly battles with her exacting and bullying father in order to protect her mother and five younger siblings from his abuse.

Her only solace is her loving relationship with the chaotic Parker family and her best friend, Gert Parker.

When matters violently escalate for Hillie, smitten Jack-the-Lad Jimmy Baxter seems her only salvation.

But could this be the biggest mistake of her life, and should she be looking for protection nearer home?

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My Thoughts…

Life was hard in 1930s England for most people. During ‘the depression’, women had little or no say in their lives, forced into domestic drudgery or menial factory jobs, paying less than men and with few prospects.

Hillie Hardwick is a young woman, she works in the Candle Factory with her best friend Gert Parker, and hands over most of her wages to her father to help support their large family. Money is tight, and her home life is far from idyllic, Hillie’s father is abusive, and Hillie seeks solace with Gert’s family who financially are no better off than the Hardwicks but happy. The tone of this story realistically reflects the period, full of angst,  despair and hardship, which will not be the everyone’s reading tastes. 

Jimmy offers Hillie a lifeline to a better life but is she moving in the right direction or following a different path to the same disastrous end? Romance, friendship and mystery are all explored in this saga. Abusive behaviour and crime also feature and the last few chapters are sinister and action-packed, Hillie’s life is in turmoil and changes irrevocably.

Intrinsic historical detail brings the story to life, but you do spend a lot of time in Hillie’s head which does slow the story’s pacing and makes it daunting to read in parts. Overall, if family sagas that showcase the best and worst of life, full of realistic but often mundane events are your thing, this will be an enjoyable read. The ending is lovely and romantic and gives Hillie the type of life she deserves.

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

Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south-east


Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

Facebook: @TaniaCrosseAuthor

Posted in Book Review

The Windmill Cafe Summer Breeze Poppy Blake 3 *Review


The Windmill Cafe is open for business!

As Rosie Barnes serves glasses of tangy lemonade and ice-cold prosecco at her summer garden party, she couldn’t be happier. The Windmill Café, with its peppermint green sails, is a roaring success and has given Rosie a chance to escape the heartbreak of her busy life in London.

But then disaster strikes when popstar Suki Richards is taken unexpectedly ill at the party. Now all eyes are on Rosie…have her famous raspberry cupcakes poisoned her most high-profile guest? Or is someone else trying to damage Suki’s chance of stardom?

If Rosie wants to save her picture-perfect life, and the reputation of her beloved Windmill Café, she’s going to have to get to the bottom of the mystery…and fast!

Amazon UK


My Thoughts… 

A windmill cafe is a delightfully quirky idea. Although the windmill doesn’t take centre stage in this story, the plot is also quirky, a cosy mystery mixed in with a romantic comedy.

This story lacks imagery. I want to know about the windmill and the glorious Norfolk countryside and coast but the details are sketchy, and so for me, the setting doesn’t have the impact it should.

I like cosy mysteries, lots of characters, a beautiful setting, an enigmatic detective or two and foul play. This story has all the necessary ingredients for a fun read, but they need more mixing and cooking to achieve their full potential.

The story’s protagonists are immature and naive; they remind me of the children’s characters,’The Famous Five’. They need to develop as the story does and unfortunately, they don’t, remaining two dimensional rather than complex and three dimensional.

An okay read but needs to be faster paced, with more suspense, plot twists and character development.

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










Posted in Book Review, Sampler

Five Chapter Sampler of Hangman Daniel Cole 5* Review

Posted in Book Review

Behind A Closed Door – Adele O’Neill Blog Tour: 4* Review

Behind a Closed Door blog tour banner

What if everything in your life was a lie? An emotionally tense story of love, loyalty, betrayal and revenge. 

DUBLIN – For the past two years, Jill Ryan has tried to keep her darkest secrets deeply buried and remain relatively anonymous. Haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her life together, Jill soon realises that the last person she can trust is herself.

KILKENNY – Only Heather Martin knows the lengths her husband will go to teach her a lesson and Heather has had enough. Faced with the impossible choice of saving herself or staying to care for her ailing father, Heather has a choice to make. But does she have what it takes to survive?

When Detectives Louise Kennedy in Dublin and Tony Kelly in Kilkenny begin to investigate, their dark discoveries collide unravelling a complex web of secrets that stretch far and wide.

Behind A Closed Door cover

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My Thoughts…

‘Behind A Closed Door’, is an emotionally harrowing story of domestic abuse, family loyalty and friendship. Two female characters are the focus of the story, one in Kilkenny two years previously and one in present-day Dublin. Both are loyal women, who have suffered domestic abuse. Timeslip between the two time periods and locations is seamless and moves the story along at a readable pace.
Character-driven this story centres on a small number of individuals, and their respective lives, cleverly linked. However, it is numerous plot twists later that the full picture is apparent. Sinister intent underscores this story; the antagonist is hateful and your empathy for the victim without question. While the suspense is well-written the major plot twist is not hard to solve, but this doesn’t detract from the story’s menace and the believable dilemmas and conflicts the protagonists face.

‘Behind A Closed Door’ highlights in a sensitive way the horror of domestic abuse using realistic characters and situations.

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


Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her hometown in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two teenage daughters. She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.

Twitter: @Adelesbooks

Facebook: AdeleONeillBooks




Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour – Miss Mary’s Daughter – Diney Costelo Extract and 5*Review

Miss Mary's Daughter blog tour banner

After her mother’s death, twenty-year-old Sophie Ross is left orphaned in London. With no money and little chance of an income, she tries to get work as a governess to avoid destitution. Now alone in the world, she only has the company of her erstwhile nursemaid and faithful friend, Hannah.

But unbeknown to Sophie, her mother instructed Hannah to post a letter to Trescadinnick House in Cornwall upon her death. The letter will be the catalyst that changes Sophie’s life forever as she learns of her mother’s romance, marriage and then ultimate rejection by her own father and the estranged family she left behind in Cornwall.

The Penvarrow family welcome Sophie and Hannah into their fold, but tensions rise, and family secrets are revealed as Sophie attempts to rebuild her life and find happiness.


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Chapter Three

Sophie woke to an insistent knocking on the front door, and realizing that Hannah must still be out, she glanced into the mirror. Her eyes were red and her hair in disarray, but she sluiced some cold water onto her cheeks, patted the stray wisps of hair into place, and went down to see who should be demanding entrance so determinedly. She opened the front door with words about impatience on her lips, but those words died unspoken as she saw her mother standing outside on the step; her mother, not as she’d last seen her, sunken-eyed, her skin stretched tight across her cheekbones, translucent and paper-white, her hair thin and greying, but as she had been before her illness took hold, cheeks glowing with health, eyes bright with laughter and curiosity, hair thick, rich, dark, luxuriant. Her mother stood on the step, a question in her brown eyes, and said in her gentle voice, ‘Sophia?’

Sophie didn’t pass out, though she thought for a moment or two that she was going to. She simply stared at her mother, her head spinning and her body cold, as the shock hit her and the colour drained from her face. Her lips formed the word Mama, but no sound came, and she continued to stare.

Her mother’s expression changed from one of query to one of concern, and stepping forward she took Sophie’s arm and guided her into the house. Sophie sank onto a chair in the hall, and the visitor closed the door behind them. For a long, silent moment Sophie remained crouching in the chair at the foot of the stairs, her mind dazed. Diamonds of sunlight cast through the glass of the front door, patterning the floor, and the solemn tick of the grandfather clock emphasized the silence, rather than broke it. Her mother spoke again. Only it wasn’t her mother, of course. Her mother was dead. But it was someone so incredibly like her that it took careful study of her face to notice the differences. When she did speak, her voice was one of great concern.

‘Sophia, my dear, are you all right?’

Sophia. Well, her mother had never called Sophie that, and anyway the voice was wrong. This was deeper, and there was the trace of an unfamiliar accent, missing from her mother’s voice.

The visitor continued. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve given you a shock, my dear. I did write, but perhaps you’ve not received my letter yet. I’m your Aunt Matilda, and I’ve come to take you home.’

Sophie stared at her uncomprehendingly. ‘Aunt Matilda?’

Her aunt said gently, ‘Yes. Aunt Matty. I’m your mother’s twin. She’ll have told you about me, no doubt. Your grandfather wants you to come home.’

Still dazed, Sophie ignored the last part of what she’d said, but latched on to the first. ‘Her twin? I didn’t know she had a twin. I didn’t even know she had a sister… or any family!’

Matilda knew from the letter that Mary hadn’t told Sophie she was writing to Trescadinnick, but she’d assumed that Sophie had at least some knowledge of the family. Clearly not. She smiled and reached for Sophie’s hand. ‘Well, we’ve obviously got a good deal of catching up to do. Perhaps we could go into the parlour and have some tea.’

My Thoughts…

Set in the late nineteenth century ‘Miss Mary’s Daughter’, is a family saga set against the rugged Cornish landscape. Shortly after her mother’s death, Sophie’s maternal family welcome her to their ancestral home with varying degrees of warmth. She discovers a web of guilt, regret and secrets that both intrigue and endanger.

The story’s historical detail and ambience let you step back into Victorian England. Moderate pacing and an increasingly complex but well-described plot combine to produce an absorbing read.

Sophie is a lovely character, naive but with a good heart and a strong will that gets her through her life’s tough times. All the characters are believable and reveal hidden depths as the storyline progresses.

Mysterious and sinister in parts this family saga slips effortlessly between Sophie’s present and her mother, Mary’s past. Exciting, adrenaline-fuelled final chapters lead to a lovely romantic end, with hope for the future.

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

Diney author photo

Diney Costeloe is the bestselling author of The Throwaway Children, The Runaway Family, The Lost Soldier, The Sisters of St Croix and The Girl With No Name. She divides her time between Somerset and West Cork


Facebook: @dineycosteloeauthor

Twitter: @Dineycost  


Posted in Book Review

The War Widow – Lorna Gray 4* Review


The echoes of war live long in the mind…

Wales, 1947

Injured and terrified after an attempted abduction, desperation drives artist Kate Ward to the idyllic scene of her ex-husband’s recent suicide. Labelled a hysterical, grieving divorcée, no one believes she is being pursued by two violent men demanding answers she cannot give. Not the police, not the doctors, and not the guests at the Aberystwyth hotel she has come to in an attempt to find out what happened to her charismatic photographer ex-husband, and why her sanity—and her life—are now at risk.

Kate can trust no one, not even the reclusive war-veteran-turned-crime-novelist, Adam Hitchen, a reserved widower and the only source of kindness in a shadowy world of suspicion and fear. And as ghosts old and new rise to haunt her, Kate must rely on all her strength and courage to uncover the shocking truth hidden within a twisted web of lies…

Amazon UK


My Thoughts…

This story isn’t the traditional World War 2 or post-war story. It’s a mystery with elements of a psychological thriller set in post-war Wales and England. The central theme of the story is Kate’s journey of self-discovery. After years of having her self-esteem eroded, facing extreme danger, hardship and loneliness force her to acknowledge her real worth.

There is a clever mystery to solve and carefully built suspense, in this twisty plot, which is a little slow paced in parts. Character-driven this story has a complex protagonist who feels utterly alone, yet this doesn’t quell her survival instinct, and she continually faces her demons and forces her adversaries to meet her head on. The cast of characters are not easy to empathise with, but they are beautifully intricate and seen through Kate’s eyes many take on sinister characteristics. The reader is left wondering whether the threat she perceives is real or paranoia.
The story has various settings, all of which are vividly described with just the right amount of historical detail to make the period setting realistic.

An original, authentic period mystery that keeps you guessing, with a strong female protagonist who is easy to empathise.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: The Woman in the Window A.J. Finn- Extract and 5*Review

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It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Amazon UK


The Woman in the Window


TUESDAY, October  26

Chapter 3

‘This time last year, we’d planned to sell the house, had even engaged a broker; Olivia would enroll in a Midtown school the following September, and Ed had found us a Lenox Hill gut job. “It’ll be fun,” he promised. “I’ll install a bidet, just for you.” I batted him on the shoulder.

“What’s a bidet?” asked Olivia.

But then he left, and she with him. So it flayed my heart all over again when, last night, I recalled the first words of our stillborn listing: lovingly restored landmark 19th-century Harlem gem! wonderful family home! Landmark and gem up for debate, I think. Harlem inarguable, likewise 19th-century (1884). Lovingly restored, I can attest to that, and expensively, too. Wonderful family home, true.

My domain and its outposts:

Basement: Or maisonette, according to our broker. Sub-street, floor-through, with its own door; kitchen, bath, bedroom, tiny office. Ed’s workspace for eight years—he’d drape the table in blueprints, tack contractor briefs to the wall. Currently tenanted.

Garden: Patio, really, accessible via the first floor. A sprawl of limestone tile; a pair of disused Adirondack chairs; a young ash tree slouched in the far corner, gangling and lonely, like a friendless teenager. Every so often I long to hug it.

First floor: Ground floor, if you’re British, or premier étage, if you’re French. (I am neither, but I spent time in Oxford during my residency— in a maisonette, as it happens—and this past July began studying français online.) Kitchen—open-plan and “gracious” (broker again), with a rear door leading to the garden and a side door to the park. White-birch floors, now blotched with puddles of merlot. In the hall a powder room—the red room, I call it. “Tomato Red,” per the Benjamin Moore catalogue. Living room, equipped with sofa and coffee table and paved in Persian rug, still plush underfoot.

Second floor: The library (Ed’s; shelves full, cracked spines and foxed dust jackets, all packed tight as teeth) and the study (mine; spare, airy, a desktop Mac poised on an IKEA table—my online-chess battlefield). Second half bath, this one blued in “Heavenly Rapture,” which is ambitious language for a room with a toilet. And a deep utility closet I might one day convert into a darkroom, if I ever migrate from digital to film. I think I’m losing interest.

Third floor: The master (mistress?) bedroom and bath. I’ve spent much of my time in bed this year; it’s one of those sleep-system mattresses, dually adjustable. Ed programmed his side for an almost downy softness; mine is set to firm. “You’re sleeping on a brick,” he said once, strumming his fingers on the top sheet.

“You’re sleeping on a cumulus,” I told him. Then he kissed me, long and slow.

After they left, during those black, blank months when I could scarcely prize myself from the sheets, I would roll slowly, like a curling wave, from one end to the other, spooling and unspooling the bed- clothes around me.

Also the guest bedroom and en-suite.

Fourth floor: Servants’ quarters once upon a time, now Olivia’s bedroom and a second spare. Some nights I haunt her room like a ghost. Some days I stand in the doorway, watch the slow traffic of dust motes in the sun. Some weeks I don’t visit the fourth floor at all, and it starts to melt into memory, like the feel of rain on my skin.

Anyway. I’ll speak to them again tomorrow. Meanwhile, no sign of the people across the park.

WEDNESDAY, October 27

Chapter 4

A rangy teenager bursts from the front door of number 207, like a horse from the starting gate, and gallops east down the street, past my front windows. I don’t get a good look—I’ve awoken early, after a late night with Out of the Past, and am trying to decide if a swallow of merlot might be wise; but I catch a bolt of blond, a backpack slung from one shoulder. Then he’s gone.

I slug a glass, float upstairs, settle myself at my desk. Reach for my Nikon.

In the kitchen of 207 I can see the father, big and broad, backlit by a television screen. I press the camera to my eye and zoom in: The Today show. I might head down and switch on my own TV, I muse, watch alongside my neighbour. Or I might view it right here, on his set, through the lens.

I decide to do that.

It’s been a while since I took in the facade, but Google furnishes a street view: whitewashed stone, faintly Beaux-Arts, capped with a widow’s walk. From here, of course, I can set my sights only on the side of the house; through its east windows, I’ve a clear shot into the kitchen, a second-floor parlor, and a bedroom above.

Yesterday a platoon of movers arrived, hauling sofas and television sets and an ancient armoire. The husband has been directing traffic. I haven’t seen the wife since the night they moved in. I wonder what she looks like.

I’m about to checkmate Rook&Roll this afternoon when I hear the bell. I shuffle downstairs, slap the buzzer, unlock the hall door, and find my tenant looming there, looking, as they say, rough and ready. He is handsome, with his long jaw, his eyes like trapdoors, dark and deep. Gregory Peck after a late evening. (I’m not the only one who thinks so. David likes to entertain the occasional lady friend, I’ve noticed. Heard, really.)

“I’m heading to Brooklyn tonight,” he reports. I drag a hand through my hair. “Okay.”

“You need me to take care of anything before I go?” It sounds like a proposition, like a line from a noir. You just put your lips together and blow.

“Thanks. I’m fine.”

He gazes past me, squints. “Bulbs need changing? It’s dark in here.”

“I like it dim,” I say. Like my men, I want to add. Is that the joke from Airplane? “Have . . .” Fun? A good time? Sex? “. . . a good time.”

He turns to go.

“You know you can just come on in through the basement door,” I tell him, trying for playful. “Chances are I’ll be home.” I hope he’ll smile. He’s been here two months, and I haven’t once seen him grin.

He nods. He leaves.

I close the door, double-bolt the lock.

I study myself in the mirror. Wrinkles like spokes around my eyes. A slur of dark hair, tigered here and there with gray, loose about my shoulders; stubble in the scoop of my armpit. My belly has gone slack. Dimples stipple my thighs. Skin almost luridly pale, veins flowing violet within my arms and legs. Dimples, stipples, stubble, wrinkles: I need work. I had a down- home appeal once, according to some, according to Ed. “I thought of you as the girl next door,” he said sadly, toward the end.

I look down at my toes rippling against the tile—long and fine, one (or ten) of my better features, but a bit small-predator right now. I rummage through my medicine cabinet, pill bottles stacked atop one another like totem poles, and excavate a nail clipper. At last, a problem I can fix.’

To read chapters 1 and 2 see Liz Loves Books


My Thoughts…

Anna’s life is tragic, and circumstances force her to become a voyeur, vicariously living through her window. The world of black and white noir thrillers her only escape. She drinks to forget and to soften the edges of her painful, lonely existence. Ten months she has lived alone, terrified to leave what should be her dream home. She exists on a cocktail of medication, which she either forgets to take or overdoses on, so when Anna sees something shocking,  though the neighbour’s  window she is not a reliable witness.

Everything is seen through Anna’s eyes but is what she sees, part of her delusional state or something sinister? I like Anna and feel a connection with her. Is she a victim of paranoia, or a conspiracy? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between?

 Perfect pacing means that even where there are lots of details and drunken confusion, these don’t hinder the story but inform the reader. Although, given the unreliableness of the narrator, not everything you discover is true.

The characters are vivid, as is the setting and the suspense building is cleverly done. The atmosphere moves from mundane to terrifying seamlessly and has more impact because of this.The plot is twisty and the shocks when they come, alter facts you were sure of, making it essential to turn the page and see what happens next.

Anna’s condition is treated sensitively, Sharing poignant memories and longings with the reader, which keep her character and the story believable.

A worthwhile read, some of the twists you may guess, but there are some you won’t. The ending brings the suspense to a crashing crescendo as the mystery is solved and Anna has to decide whether she wants to live or die. Reading these scenes is like watching a film, just like the black and white thrillers Anna loves.

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

A.J. Finn is the pen name of Dan Mallory, vice president and executive editor at William Morrow. Dan has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Times Literary Supplement. A native of New York, he lived in England for ten years before returning to New York City. He is an Oxford graduate, with a life-long love of the thriller noir genre, and a particular appreciation of Hitchcockian cinema.