After studying literature, linguistics and Spanish at university, AJ Park trained as an English teacher and actor. He has edited magazines and taught English, Media Studies and Drama in secondary schools in England. He was also a competitive fencer for seven years.
Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.
When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
What a fabulously chilling ending this story has, I thought I’d worked it out but I didn’t see that coming.
‘I Know Who You Are’ is told from Aimee’s point of view, in the present day, with flashbacks thirty years previously to her childhood. The story is menacing and you experience everything Aimee feels.
Aimee is an unreliable protagonist because of the trauma she suffered in her past life, but she is easy to empathise, and I believed in her throughout the twists and turns of the story.
Abuse and control are the major themes of this story and shape Aimee into the person she is, preferring to act and assume a character rather than face the reality of her life.
Putting aside the suspense, mystery and plot twists, which are well-written, and have a powerful impact, there is also an ethos of sadness, loss and powerlessness that defines Aimee, and her story. It is this that resonates and makes her story believable.
Extract from: ‘I Know Who you Are’ – Alice Feeney
I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember
Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming
else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise
the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up
Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,
to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at
is written on the dressing-room door:
name, not his. I never changed it.
because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage
only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name
defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,
in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a
Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.
Someone else. A new
name for a new me. The me I became when
else was looking.
a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.
I think we broke us last night.
it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the
because they can.
He hurt me.
made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be
in order to fix them.
I hurt him back.
check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,
way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,
spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever
I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of
hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;
are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,
walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.
Something very bad happened last night.
tried so hard to pretend that it didn’t, struggled to rearrange
the memories, but I can still hear his hate-filled words, still, feel his
around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen
face wear before.
I can still fix this. I can fix us.
lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.
was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also
walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving
dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.
steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately
the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.
I did love him, I still do.
think it’s important to remember that. We weren’t always the
version of us that we became. Life remodels relationships like these reshapes the sand; eroding dunes of love, building banks of hate.
night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and
told him that I meant it this time.
I didn’t. Mean it.
climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio
steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,
the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my
edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,
face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before
me, acting has never been about attracting attention or
to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do
else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel
The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,
that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.
people just want to be somebody else. Acting is easy, it’s being
me that I find difficult. I throw up
before almost every interview
event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I
to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,
in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.
Nobody understands who I really am, except him.
husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My
is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled
start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I
never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my
tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which
kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing
you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or
it again yourself.
drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing
real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in
mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about
forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told
have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my
as though all the things they have seen made them swell
of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert
not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing
me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget
eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t
what she said about my performance.
was a review of my first film role last year. A part that changed
my life, and my husband’s, forever. It certainly changed our bank
but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound
– it took me away from him – and I think he needed
make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m
who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted
He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the
He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too
so tight that it hurt.
I think part of me liked it.
park on the street and allow my feet to lead me up the garden
path. I bought the Notting Hill townhouse because I thought it
fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But
is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve
felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in
way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of
and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the
out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.
let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,
I call, taking off my coat.
the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,
home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to
this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never
its own cage.
I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our
every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of
night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of
lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve
every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate
of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small
attached to them; there’s just one word:
is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.
want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.
want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I
to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before
started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the
I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.
retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on
coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere
his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either
or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and
a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see
but when I press the button again the phone demands Ben’s
passcode. I try and fail to guess several times until it locks me out
search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This
out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where
left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one
time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall
hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.
Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?
is the most destructive form of self-harm.
series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears:
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.
This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.
Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.
If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.
Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour
Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?
I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.
The Liars was most keenly inspired by the
phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive
environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and
witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the
industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure
flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a
brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman
in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and
you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists,
and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?
quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of
shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit
of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you
behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic
version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by
something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction:
amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and
entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to
read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual
tastes if they come highly recommended.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in
some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing
involved in PR.
best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own.
There’s nothing quite like it.
worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping
that people will like it!
What are you currently writing?
be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work
on the third.
Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!
Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy
David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a
moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’
shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then
greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all
reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a
meeting? Without me?
green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now
David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard
or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had
struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed
through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes
on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would
that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the
outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t
fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it,
up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you
doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.
I hated that she had an office. I’d been at
the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an
area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed
like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.
knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes
of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it
was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could
scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch
together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d
been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died
and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost
every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers
between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in
every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both
up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her:
here I was. Fighting for my career.
didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.
everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The
news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said
matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated
everything being so public.’
could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.
she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been
affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went
fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.
I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.
– do you mind?’
words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened
its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had
Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling
twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn
an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my
what were you thinki—’
Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.
Naomi Joy is a 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.
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?
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review
Compelling and sinister are the best adjectives to describe this story, about an ordinary couple who are anything but. If you are a regular reader of psychological and domestic thrillers, there is not a lot to shock you here, the sex and violence are implied rather than graphic, the reader is left to imagine what happens and that keeps you engrossed in the story.
The insightful story has cleverly layered suspense that draws you in. The surprise factor is that such unassuming,’normal’ individuals act in such an extraordinary way. What motivates their actions? Are they a product of nature or nurture?
The intelligently constructed plot twists keep coming. I did work out the later ones, but mainly because the characters are so well described, the reader can predict what they will do next. It’s an exhausting book mainly due to the level of character detail it contains, and the constant flashbacks to former experiences.
‘My Lovely Wife’ makes the reader participate. It’s an active experience more than a passive read. It gives an insight into the minutiae of the family’s life, and you daren’t turn away, in case you miss something important.
A great fusion of psychological and domestic thrillers, with complex, enthralling characters who are so dark, you have to search for their humanity.
AUGUST 1975: Cassie Maltham’s life changes forever one scorching day. She and her twelve-year-old cousin Suzie take a shortcut through the Greenway, an ancient pathway steeped in Norfolk legend. Somewhere along this path Suzie simply vanishes . . .
TWENTY YEARS LATER: Cassie is still tormented by nightmares, parts of her memory completely erased. With her husband Fergus and friends Anna and Simon, she returns to Norfolk, determined to confront her fears and solve a mystery that won’t let her rest.
Then another young girl goes missing at the entrance to the Greenway, and Cassie is pushed once more into the darkest recesses of her mind.
John Tynan, the retired detective who’d been in charge of Suzie’s case, is still haunted by her disappearance. He offers his help to Detective Inspector Mike Croft who is leading the increasingly frantic search for the missing child. Has evil returned? And what really happened all those years ago and who can be believed?
I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A well-written retro, psychological suspense mystery set in Norfolk.
Cassie is the link between two disappearances of young girls. Her cousin Suzie in 1975 and Sara in 1995, whilst Cassie is revisiting the area after twenty years, as part of her mental health rehabilitation.
There is a multi-layered plot, which encompasses many themes; myths and legends, supernatural occurrences, crime, mental health and police procedural. Some of these are explored in detail, like the day to day police activity surrounding the missing child, others like the supernatural elements, and Cassie’s mental state are hinted at but left to the reader’s imagination to decide what to believe.
Mike Croft the SIO in the case is an interesting character, he has a tragic past, which threatens to impinge on his decision-making capacity in the case. John Tynan, a retired detective who was SIO on the previous missing girl case in 1975, sees the similarities between the two cases, and he supports Mike and his team with the new case. His involvement ties up the historical, and present day elements of the story in a realistic way.
The plot twists are good and the final resolution solves the mystery. Some questions remain but, this is intentional, making this an authentic story, as in real life not every aspect of a crime or mystery can be solved in entirety.
I like the retro ethos of the story, it adds to the plot’s level of menace and the mystery. The complex characters, especially Cassie who is the unreliable protagonist in the story are believable.
Overall this fusion of genres works well and makes the story a compelling read.
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
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?
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
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
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?
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?
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…
you so much, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely blog,
Jane Hunt Writer!
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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
to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket.
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
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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?
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…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
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.