Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

She’s Mine – Claire S.Lewis – #BlogTour- 4*#Review- #Author #Interview- #Extract @Aria_Fiction @CSLewisWrites

She was never mine to lose…

When Scarlett falls asleep on a Caribbean beach she awakes to her worst nightmare – Katie is gone. With all fingers pointed to her Scarlett must risk everything to clear her name.

As Scarlett begins to unravel the complicated past of Katie’s mother she begins to think there’s more to Katie’s disappearance than meets the eye. But who would want to steal a child? And how did no-one see anything on the small island?

Buy Links:

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

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

My Thoughts…

This is not what I expected. The first few chapters make you think certain events have occurred, and following on from this, the list of suspects is few, but then you are transported back to 1997, and what you discover there changes your perception of what happened on the beach.

The flashbacks are in a series of photographs which trigger a specific set of memories of the unknown narrator. The introduction of new characters seemingly unrelated to the event on the Carribean island, and initially cause confusion for the reader, but gradually the connections can be made and the puzzle starts to form a coherent picture.

Scarlett is an unreliable protagonist, she has past secrets, which reinforce her unreliability. She is also immature and easily swayed by the stronger, more mature personalities she comes into contact with. Costa is an unconventional investigator, they make an unusual but effective investigating team.

The characters are complex and all are flawed, keeping secrets, behaving instinctively, rather than with caution. Can the reader trust any of them for a truthful account?

The plot is intriguing, there are plenty of clues but these are countered by misinformation, so when you think you know what happened you don’t.

Surprisingly, I did work out the ending but this didn’t detract from the story.

A compulsive, psychological thriller, with well-crafted suspense and some clever twists, and an overriding poignant ethos, worth reading.

Claire S. Lewis – Author Interview

What inspired you to write this story?

She’s Mine started as a little exercise that I wrote on ‘setting’ for a beginner’s online creative writing course.  I chose a beach setting because I thought that would be a good way of using all the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – in the description.  You’re usually very engaged with your senses when lying on a beach!  To make it more interesting, I added the plot element of a nanny falling asleep on the sand and waking up to find that the little girl she was supposed to be looking after had disappeared. When I later took the Faber Academy course on writing a novel, I used this piece as the opening chapter for my novel draft which became She’s Mine.

What is the first thing you decide when writing a story, the setting, the plot or characters? Why do you think this is?

When starting a story, the first thing that gets me writing is the plot. Sometimes a conversation or a news item or something I hear on the radio makes me think, ‘that would be a great starting point for a novel’, or ‘if you put that into a novel nobody would believe it’, and from that scene or idea, I develop a plot.  Next, I imagine which characters would act out that plot and how they would interact with each other. And then I think about what would be an interesting or enticing setting or stage for those characters – usually, I like to pick locations that I know well and that I know I would love bringing to life in descriptions. So, in She’s Mine, much of the backstory is set in Oxford because I was a student there and it is a beautiful and atmospheric city that is still very vivid in my memory. I can easily wind back the clock and put myself in the place of my characters and imagine myself there, seeing and feeling it from inside their heads.

I think the plot interests me the most because I like the idea of setting up a puzzle and then gradually letting the readers into the mystery. The characters are there to act out the plot. I am also really interested in exploring devices such as the ‘unreliable narrator’ – like the nanny,  Scarlett, in She’s Mine. In addition, I enjoy playing around with changing narrative viewpoints so that the reader sees parts of the puzzle or mystery through one character’s eyes but has to read between the lines to work out the ‘truth’ that is eventually revealed when the narrative perspective changes to another character. I use this device a lot in my second novel. The plot is the starting point for all this.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters are mostly imaginary – which is lucky because they tend to be quite dark and complicated! Of course, in some cases, I draw on certain personality traits of people I know in real life, or perhaps not so much personality traits but ways of speaking and interacting with other people. After reading the first draft of She’s Mine, my teenage daughter said to me, ‘So Scarlett’s basically me!’ I wasn’t conscious of writing this (and they certainly don’t have the same characters!), but she recognised herself in Scarlett’s narrative voice! So far all of my male characters have been flawed – weak, vain, untrustworthy, and the like. I wouldn’t say this is a reflection of the men in my life! In She’s Mine, my anti-hero Damien was in part inspired by a particularly unpleasant man I spoke to very briefly at an event some years ago! Sometimes it doesn’t take much to light the spark of a character…

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love reading all sorts of fiction books as long as they are not too heavy or slow moving! Particular authors/books that I have loved since I was a teenager include Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby/Tender is the Night), Graham Greene (The Confidential Agent/The Power and The Glory), Nancy Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley). I think these books are brilliant because they are so beautifully written with such intriguing stories, charismatic characters and entrancing settings. I also love modern psychological thrillers such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Cry and You. My all-time favourite novel is Gone With The Wind which I devoured when I was growing up.

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

Before I had children, I was an aviation lawyer for Virgin Atlantic, but I’ve always loved reading and books, and always dreamt of writing a novel.  So after having been at home with the children for a few years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for some creative writing courses – both novel and screenwriting – to see if I could do it – then I got hooked. I love writing fiction because of the freedom it gives you to escape and get lost in other worlds. And I love psychological suspense because I find the psychological part fascinating – imagining what’s going on in other people’s minds – and the suspense part is so much fun to create because it’s what keeps us reading – the ‘what if?’ and ‘what next’ that makes us want to keep turning the page!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing another story in the genre of psychological suspense about a beautiful young florist with a tragedy in her past. It’s wonderful to write because I’m researching the world of floristry and flowers (as well as getting to grips with the workings of dating apps such as Tinder which I’ve never looked at before!). The plot revolves around stalking (no pun intended!) but it’s not clear who is the predator and who is the victim…

Thank you so much, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely blog, Jane Hunt Writer!

Extract

That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. What I don’t reveal to her is an incident that took place in Christina’s bedroom the week before we flew out to the British Leeward Isles. I don’t disclose it because the incident doesn’t put me in a good light either! On Tuesdays, Katie does a full day at kindergarten so I have a little time to myself. I’ve got into the habit of using Christina’s en-suite, luxurious, walk-in power shower and expensive beauty products following the weekly hot yoga class that I go to after dropping off Katie. So last Tuesday, I had just finished my shower and wrapped myself in Christina’s bathrobe when I heard her bedroom door opening and then the sound of her antique roll top desk being unlocked.

I thought she must have come back early from work for some reason. There was nothing else for it but to come clean (literally!) and apologise for taking the liberty of using her bathroom without asking first. So I took off her bathrobe, draped a towel around me and opened the door. But it wasn’t Christina. It was Damien with his back to me, checking the contents of the desk. Caught in the act. Hearing the catch he started and turned in alarm. He reddened but quickly composed himself and went on the offensive.

‘What a vision of beauty!’ he sneered as I stood there, my wet hair dripping onto the carpet. ‘I didn’t realise you and Christina were so intimate.’

‘And I didn’t realise you made a habit of going through her private papers!’ I snapped back. I know very well that the desk, an old family heirloom shipped over from the UK, is a strictly no-go area that she keeps locked at all times. He just laughed and then cool as a cucumber, he slipped some documents into a green cardboard file under his arm, locked the desk, pocketed the key and marched out of the room.

‘Just mind your own business and keep out of our affairs. Or you’ll be going the same way as the previous nanny,’ was his parting shot.

I understood this was no idle threat. Christina’s so possessive and distrustful that I knew if she got wind of this brush with Damien, she would imagine the worst and I’d be out of a job. So I said nothing to Christina in New York and I say nothing to the police officer now as she converses with me in the hotel bedroom.

I decide to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.

*

For something that was supposed to have been a ‘friendly chat’ the questioning is intense. After asking about my relations with Christina and Damien she embarks on a list of questions clearly aimed at working out a timeline for my movements this afternoon. What time did I arrive at the beach with Katie? Did I speak to anyone? Did anyone approach me or Katie? Did I notice anyone watching her? What time did I fall asleep? What time did I wake up? When did I become aware Katie was missing? What did I do next? Did I see anyone on the beach when I was looking for her? How long did I spend searching the beach before raising the alarm? What time did I tell Christina her little girl was missing?

My head is pounding and I feel like a criminal by the time the family liaison officer finally puts her notepad away.

‘These questions are nothing to worry about,’ she assures me. ‘We just need to establish the timeline for the disappearance of the little girl.’ She ends the conversation by encouraging me to contact her ‘any time, any place’ if I need support or if I ‘remember’ anything else that may be relevant to the investigation. I half expect her to clap me in handcuffs and announce that she’s putting me under arrest when at last she says that I’m at liberty to go.

*

In a waking nightmare, we struggle on through the grief-stricken hours of the day making calls, badgering the search team for any new scrap of information and giving interviews to reporters in the belief that getting Katie’s story out there might somehow help in her rescue.

The worst moment comes just after midnight when the operation is called to a halt. I collapse onto a chair in a quivering heap. All the strength has gone from my legs. Christina appears distraught, begging members of the police and emergency services to go on searching.

‘There’s nothing more we can do tonight. We’ll resume at dawn. You should get some sleep,’ says the commander sternly. Holding our despair at bay and unable to contemplate the thought of sleep, we pace the beaches and the rocky headland for the next two hours, tripping over stones in the darkness, our steps lit only by the moon and stars in the cloudless black sky and the light from our mobile phones.

I am lightheaded with exhaustion by the time I accompany Christina to her room in the early hours of the morning. We sit out on the balcony mesmerised by the sound of waves rolling on to sand. We are too tired to speak. I make tea and give her three sleeping tablets from a packet I find in her wash bag. Once the tablets take effect, I steer her to bed, her expression vacant and confused, as she lets me pull the covers over her. It’s not until I shut Christina’s door and go down the corridor to the room I’m sharing with Katie that it strikes me again. Where the fuck is Damien? I haven’t seen him all day, not since he handed me the cocktail at the pool.

When I open the door, there is Katie’s blue bunny, propped up on her newly-made bed. The tears stream down my face. The bedtime story I was reading to her last night is still open at the page we got to when her eyes finally closed. It’s a beautifully illustrated copy of Peter Pan that Christina discovered in a quaint little bookshop called the Book Cellar, one of her favourite haunts for second-hand books. I glance down at the page. ‘The Mermaids’ Lagoon’ – Katie’s favourite chapter. She loves the colour illustrations of the mermaids diving in the waves. The doors to the balcony are open. I shiver in the sea breeze and step out through billowing curtains.

I stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket.

Lost. Drowned.

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 
Twitter
Facebook

 

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller

The Guilty Party – 4* #Review – Mel McGrath @HQstories @mcgrathmj

You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible? And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Four old friends witness a terrible crime, individually and finally, collectively, there are numerous opportunities where they can make a difference to the outcome, but they don’t.

The story moves forward to a different group gathering when they inadvertently find out the outcome of that night. Should they have acted differently? Are they guilty? Why did they react in the way they did?

Switching between timelines and different points of view the dilemma is revealed and painstakingly unravelled This complex story is suspenseful, intense and dark. Delving into the dark secrets people keep hidden from the world, their friends, and the way we lie, even to ourselves.

There are many plot twists and the ending maintains the story’s dark ethos. Don’t expect to like the characters, they have few redeeming features. Maybe they are a reflection of a contemporary society that focuses on self and the individual whilst promoting a blame culture? It makes you think, and the question posed is what would you do?

Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller

Apple of My Eye – Claire Allan- 5*#Review -@AvonBooksUK @ClaireAllan

Just how far is a mother willing to go?

When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.

As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.

Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A spine chilling domestic set psychological thriller. Like the previous novel ‘Her Name Was Rose’, the plot is believable and therefore menacing. The plot has many twists and you understand how Eli cannot trust anyone in her life.

Told from three points of view, there is a sense of dramatic irony, as you as the reader know more than the main protagonist. However can you believe what you read, or are you being misled?

Addictive, Authentic and Audacious and worth reading.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Thriller

4* Review – Sue Fortin- Schoolgirl Missing @HarperFiction @suefortin1 @HarperCollinsUK

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?

When fourteen-year-old Poppy vanishes on a family boating trip, suspicion soon turns close to home – to the two people who should do everything to keep her safe, her parents, Kit and Neve.

Neve has a secret. Kit is lying.
Everyone is watching.
Who do you believe? 

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I usually avoid reading stories on this subject, but I made an exception because I always enjoy reading Sue Fortin’s thrillers which inevitably have a strong family drama theme and unexpected twists.

School Girl Missing is not what the title suggests although a young girl does disappear, but has she run away, or been abducted? Neve and Kit’s marriage is not what it first appears, Neve is hiding secrets and Kit is blinded by emotional fear. When the marriage starts to crumble, how will they react and who will be the collateral damage?

Neve is an unreliable protagonist, you want to empathise with her but there’s something about her that makes this difficult. Kit’s fear of loss distances him from his family until he realises they mean everything to him and has to fight to keep them.

This story explores the extremes of human emotions and makes the reader wonder what if they were in these circumstances, how would they react?

Fast-paced, with a seemingly ordinary domestic setting, this story has sinister undertones and a disturbing ending.

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

Posted in Cover Reveal

#CoverReveal- Jessica Jarlvi – What Did I Do?

Kristin is on the run. From her life. From herself.

When two murders take place in Chicago, Kristin quickly finds herself a prime suspect. The problem is she can’t be sure of what she did or didn’t do.

DID THEY MAKE ME DO IT… In fear for her life, Kristin flees abroad to start her life over.  But it’s not that easy to escape the past. And whatever she’s done, someone is on her tail, wanting her to pay. The question is: could she be a killer and not even remember?

Amazon UK 

Kobo 

Google Play

iBooks

 Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She worked in publishing in the UK for a number of years before heading to Chicago where she edited a magazine for expats. Back in Sweden, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media at a local university and has spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Last year, she was one of the winners in the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Jessica is married with three spirited children, and although she’s known for her positivity, her writing tends to be rather dark!

Twitter Facebook

My Thoughts… – read my full review here

‘What stands out in this story is the unmitigated evil of the antagonist, who is the puppeteer, while all the other characters are puppets to some degree, although few are entirely blameless.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

And So It Begins – 5* Review – Rachel Abbott

WHO WILL BELIEVE YOUR STORY IF THE ONLY WITNESS IS DEAD?

Cleo knows she should be happy for her brother Mark. He’s managed to find someone new after the sudden death of his first wife – but something about Evie just doesn’t feel right…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As the accused stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An engaging psychological thriller with a detailed courtroom section and a host of absorbing female antagonists and protagonists. The plot is twisty, and although I worked out Evie’s secret in the last third of the book, I think this is the author’ intention, so that the final dramatic chapters have maximum impact.

Evie, Cleo and Mark all have issues, the question for the reader to solve is who is the most twisted and manipulating the facts for their ends. This story has a menacing quality but also an inherent sadness due to the waste of life and the opportunity to be happy.

The female detective protagonist’s role in the story is pivotal, and although Stephanie has her emotional heartache, her detective skills are notable.

Packed with detail and characters who are not what they first seem, this is a standout read in the crowded genre of psychological thrillers.

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

Posted in Book Review

Mine – J.L.Butler – 4*Review

My CLIENT
My LOVER

Francine Day is a high flying lawyer about to apply for silk, ambitious and brilliant. She just needs one headline-grabbing client to seal her place as queen’s counsel … Martin Joy. The attraction is instant. Obsessive.

They embark on a secret affair, and Francine thinks she can hold it together. But then Martin’s wife goes missing. And Martin is the prime suspect. Francine is now his lawyer, lover and the last person to see Donna Joy alive.

As the case unravels so does Francine.

Her HUSBAND
My OBSESSION

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

‘Mine’ is an enjoyable read. The legal setting is interesting. The professional trust between a lawyer and client broken by the protagonist pushes her into the unreliable protagonist territory. Her mental health issues may also make her observations and perceptions questionable from the reader’s point of view.

A well written psychological thriller, regarding mystery, menace, pacing and suspense. The themes are well tried in this type of novel as are the characters; the mentally unstable obsessive mistress, the ruthless businessman for whom reputation and money is everything, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers the polished presentation of this one will please.

The mental disintegration of the Fran, the main protagonist, is realistic as are her actions, many of the choices she makes are bad, but they are understandable and therefore believable. The final chapters are atmospheric and suspenseful, aided by a wonderfully gothic setting and inclement weather.

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

Posted in Book Review

You Let Me In- 5* Review- Lucy Clarke

Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .

I’M IN YOUR HOUSE

There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.

I’M IN YOUR HEAD

Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.

AND NOW I KNOW YOUR SECRET

As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

I’ve read so many ‘psychological thrillers this year, but this is one of the best.

What I like about it is authenticity, I believe in Elle, the situations she finds herself and the ending, while surprisingly is entirely believable.

The story moves from Elle in the present and then to a past time when her life changes irrevocably, this is where you are sure you know who her present tormentor is but are you right? The third voice in the story is the person who once let into Elle’s life won’t let go.

The novel abounds with paranoia, as Elle appears to become increasingly irrational, even to herself. There are many blind alleys, and part reveals before the dramatic conclusion. The atmosphere is key to this book’s impact, and it builds to a crescendo of menace. The setting is vivid and a character in itself, emphasising the storyline, to significant effect.

If you think you’re tired of this genre, this story may change your mind.

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

Posted in Book Review

Believe Me – J.P. Delaney – 4* Review

Claire Wright likes to play other people. 

A British drama student, in New York without a green card, Claire takes the only job she can get: working for a firm of divorce lawyers, posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.

When one of her targets becomes the subject of a murder investigation, the police ask Claire to use her acting skills to help lure their suspect into a confession. But right from the start, she has doubts about the part she’s being asked to play. Is Patrick Fogler really a killer . . . Or the only decent husband she’s ever met? And is there more to this set-up than she’s being told?

And that’s when Claire realises she’s playing the deadliest role of her life . . .

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An original perspective on the concept of ‘the honey trap’ and entrapment that raises numerous ethical issues but produces a quirky, dark thriller with addictive qualities. There is a mix of writing styles, including poetry, scripts and interviews.

Claire is a British drama student living in New York, her opportunities for making ends meet are scarce, so she uses her acting talents and earns ‘cash in hand’ money from a firm of divorce lawyers, acting as a ‘pick up’ in hotel bars to trap straying husbands.

Claire is the unreliable protagonist, at her happiest playing other people and so it’s difficult to establish who she truly is. When someone dies her role escalates, she is co-opted to trap the suspected killer. The thriller’s intensity increases and fantasy and reality merge with dangerous results.

The only thing predictable about this thriller is its unpredictability. If you accept, nothing is as it seems or what you expect and enjoy the show its an absorbing thriller.

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

Posted in Book Review

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.

Amazon UK

Amazon

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.