Claire Westcott tries to be the perfect wife to Byron but fears she will never measure up to his ex, Colleen. After all, it’s hard to compete with the dead.
Colleen went missing eight years ago. Her body was never found but the police ruled it a suicide. So when Claire receives a phone call from a woman she believes is Colleen, it sparks a million terrifying questions.
Claire discovers the couple weren’t as happy as they would have people believe. And now she’s worried Byron has been lying to her.
There are secrets in every marriage, but sometimes those secrets are deadly.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton UK – Mulholland Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The illusion of a perfect marriage is a popular trope for psychological thrillers. but this one has enough originality to make it addictive. Told from two points of view, Claire, Byron’s second wife, and an unknown younger woman, it uncovers a web of lies. Claire is an unreliable protagonist, she drinks and is obsessive. She is hard to empathise, even though she appears to be the victim. The other point of view is also obsessive and appears to present a threat to Byron and Claire’s marriage.
The pace and length of the story are perfect, no unnecessary detail, to detract from the character insights and the events, past and present that the plot reveals.This is a complex story, with many twists, the reader deviates between Claire, Byron and the mystery point of view, who is the victim and who is the antagonist?
It’s a story that demands concentration, you can’t dip in and out, the clues are there, and are more obvious as the story heads towards its conclusion, but they are easy to miss, or misconstrue.
The ending fits well with what has gone before and is a satisfactory conclusion of this cleverly plotted, page-turning, psychological thriller.
At the time of reading and review, this book is a free download on Amazon UK.
Three short stories set in Lynmouth, Devon. This is a place I know well, and I enjoyed the sense of familiarity, as I read these stories. All the stories have a distinctly noir flavour, in stark contrast to the beauty of the setting. For me, this increases their impact.
In Plain Sight
Features a mother and son, the terror of their circumstances resonates. The mother’s instinct to protect her offspring is evident. It is this, and the need to survive that gives the story its clever twist. Little, is known about why they are in this situation, it is left to the reader’s imagination. Despite, its brevity the story engages, and the vivid imagery makes the setting and situation easy to visualise.
Killing Me Softly
The seasonal contrast of Lynmouth is used to good effect in this story. Internal darkness is the main theme. Poignant, with a tangible sense of hopelessness, you share a young woman’s sense of despair, as she struggles to cope with reality. The isolation and the power of the mind are key to this story. The ending is inevitable but has a strange mystical quality. Even as you know what is happening, you are not entirely sure of the root cause.
Hell And High Water
The final story explores an out of season holiday with unforeseen consequences. Domestic Abuse is the predominant theme. The Lynmouth setting during a storm provides a timely if dark twist to the protagonist’s predicament.
The last two stories are longer, but all three can be read easily, in under an hour, So, if you’re looking for a chilling, noir read, try this on the beach, it even has a seaside setting.
Did You Know …?
Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.
Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.
PRAISE FOR LV HAY:
‘Well-written, engrossing & brilliantly unique’– Heat World
‘Prepare to be surprised by this psychological mystery’– Closer
‘Sharp, confident writing, as dark and twisty as the Brighton Lanes’– Peter James
‘Prepare to be seriously disturbed’ – Paul Finch
‘Crackles with tension’ – Karen Dionne
‘An original, fresh new voice in crime fiction’ – Cal Moriarty
‘The writing shines from every page of this twisted tale’– Ruth Dugdall
‘I couldn’t put it down’ – Paula Daly
‘An unsettling whirlwind of a novel with a startlingly dark core’ – The Sun
‘An author with a fresh, intriguing voice and a rare mastery of the art of storytelling’ – Joel Hames
Lucy V Hay is a script editor for film and an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and has been featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspaper, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, is an ebook bestseller. Her next title is ‘Never Have I Ever‘, for Hodder Books.
Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.
When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.
Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.
The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’
They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.
The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.
Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.
The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.
A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.
Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.
Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.
Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.
The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.
Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall
The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November
air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled
high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon,
crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire
Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head
only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch
alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.
My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white
that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands
are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and
children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind
the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky,
before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night
air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire
casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so
her view isn’t obstructed.
For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.
‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine
into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink
– not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve
told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a
nanny, but she never takes any notice.
‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let
the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots
into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises
from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her
hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket,
drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says,
the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind
the cordon in front of us.
‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare
to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that.
Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not
Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the
position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon
as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we
wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks
‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says
impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and
frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak.
‘Where is she?’
I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the
faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their
droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in
the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me
either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.
‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled
wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising
from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as
she glances past me, searching for Laurel.
‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at
her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink
and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’
‘She did? Are you sure?’
‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.
‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’
Jane’s daughter is a good girl. What is she hiding?
When thirteen-year-old Savannah Hopkins doesn’t come straight home from school, as she always does, her mother Jane immediately raises the alarm.
Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward whose daughter Leigh is the same age as Savannah. Soon Natalie’s worst fears are confirmed when the teenager’s broken body is found in nearby shrubland.
Evidence points towards a local recluse, but just as the net is closing around him, one of Savannah’s friends, Harriet, is reported missing.
As Natalie delves into the lives of both girls, she soon discovers a sinister video on their phones, daring the girls to disappear from their families for 48 hours.
But Natalie isn’t quick enough for this killer, and she is devastated to find Harriet’s body on a fly tip a day later.
Caught up in the case, she takes her eye off her own daughter and when Leigh goes missing after school she knows she must be in terrible danger. The clock is ticking for Natalie. Can she catch this killer before her little girl becomes the next victim?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my first time reading the DI Natalie Ward series, but the story reads perfectly as a standalone. You soon become familiar with the recurrent characters and their motivations and hangups.
The story is easy to read and realistic. There is a killer in the town preying on young girls. The girls have secrets, hidden from their mothers and this duplicity makes them vulnerable and susceptible to the evil that surrounds them.
There are multiple suspects and sketchy alibis and each delay bring the possibility of another innocent life taken closer. DI Natalie Ward is a dedicated officer, trying to balance her demanding career with troubled home life. There are notable parallels between her teenagers and the victims, which leads to a dangerous collision of personal and professional life that could end in tragedy for the detective.
The fast pacing complements the relentless menace of the abductions and killings. There is a good balance of action and detection and the suspense builds with every incident making this an addictive story. The characterisation makes the protagonist and the minor characters come to life. You feel their emotions and empathise with them
This is a contemporary story, the issues raised face each parent of teenagers and pre-teens, the power and anonymity of social media and the internet is explored in a believable and thought-provoking way. There are no stereotypes here.
The clever plot has the killer playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the detective team, with dangerous stakes and a rising body count. Enhanced with an authentic setting and a cast of realistically flawed characters, this is a riveting noir crime thriller.
Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.
Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?
As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.
But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?
Haunting, suspenseful and as chilling as an Icelandic winter, The Island follows one woman’s journey to find the truth hidden in the darkest shadows, and shine a light on her own dark past.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Island’ is the second in the #HiddenIceland series of noir crime novels. I haven’t read the first book, but this reads well as a standalone. Hulda is a troubled detective and her personality and emotional pain, make her perfect for the ethos of this series. The story is sinister and suspenseful, but rather than relying on action scenes for its interest and impetus, it delves deep into the characters and their secrets to reveal the plot’s twists and turns.
Hulda is haunted by her past and elements of the crime resonate with her, making her more personally involved with the events at the island and its players than is wise.
The story flicks between different timelines, which demands concentration. You need to enjoy this deep, slow-paced, dark storytelling to get something from this book, but it is authentic and a good example of its genre.
In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.
Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned, at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.
Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold – just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…
Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?
I find Scandinavian Noir mystery thrillers difficult. I enjoy the atmospheric settings and the underlying menace, but I find the pacing inexorably slow and the characters hard to empathise and understand.
All these things are true of ‘The Forbidden Place’, so from that point of view it fits well into this genre, the ending is good, and the author’s ability to create suspense is not in doubt, it’s just for me the slow pace, and the characters’ insular, inherent coldness negate this.
Nathalie, a biologist, returns to her childhood town to finish her PhD dissertation. She is troubled and eventually, you find out why. The bog steeped in folklore and tragedy is part of her study but when someone is attacked, and the bodies start appearing she is forced to relive her past, face her demons to ensure she has a happier future.
It is suspenseful, and the mystery throws up lots of false suspects, if you are happy with a slow-paced read and accept the characters lack vivacity, this is worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder& Stoughton- Mulholland Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.