And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.
Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.
Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.
Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my second psychological thriller by this author, and like her previous book ‘The Marriage Betrayal’ this story explores a family tragedy, with two main points of view, and lots of plot twists that make reading it, a mind-blowing experience.
The story begins with Catriona in the past. She is emotionally distraught, something terrible has happened, she finds herself at a shopping mall, and after a while, a young child catches her attention.
Rachel tells her story in the present, she meets a new mother at school, their children become instant friends, but when she meets the older sibling, she cannot believe her eyes. She resembles the child she lost eight years previously.
This is a story of secrets, obsession and tragedy. Neither viewpoint is reliable, and whilst most of the information relayed from the two points of view seems plausible, you are constantly waiting for the twist that says you are wrong.
The characters have many flaws, Rachel is hard to like, even though you empathise with her situation. She trusts no one, and you wonder why she has kept her secrets for so long.
This is an emotionally gripping story, with relentless suspense, that draws you in and keeps you reading. There are some less plausible parts to the story, but this is a psychological thriller, told by unreliable protagonists, you cannot expect events to be conventional.
The twists are well constructed and keep you guessing, and the trademark ending makes you gasp, even though you knew it was coming.
Not to be missed if you love the twisty turns of a good psychological thriller, with a seemingly normal domestic setting.
Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:
YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME. DARE TO PLAY?
The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.
And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.
As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.
But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Transworld Publishers – Black Swan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A thriller with a strong psychological element and complex, sinister characters. It is slow-paced and focuses on unravelling the psyche of a schoolgirl, and a group of missing people, who appear to have left their lives to join a mind game.
The main protagonists are a criminal psychologist and her partner, who specialises in finding missing persons. Augusta Bloom is the stronger of the characters, and she takes the lead into finding the missing people, who appear to be drawn to a strange, potentially dangerous game. Her professional meetings with a schoolgirl who has been involved in a violent incident run alongside her other investigation. Are they connected directly, or indirectly or not at all? Where are the missing people? Are the victims or the antagonists?
The build of suspense is good, the knowledge of the human mind apparent, and you learn interesting facts about profiling and psychopaths. These subjects need to intrigue you for this novel to appeal, the clues are there, but well-spaced, so unless you have a good memory, you may forget them when they are returned too,
Worth reading, if you are interested in what makes the human mind work, from a psychologist’s point of view. and enjoy case study thrillers.
Fran made the biggest mistake of her life when she had an affair with Ben. Both families live in the village of Oakheart; their children are friends. Fran’s guilt shadows her days. But it’s no more than she deserves, or is it? At least she’s managed to protect her husband, Hector, from the harsh truth.
But for how long?
Tessa has left her troubles in the past and now has the perfect life. Ben might have his faults, but his life has not been easy. They need each other, and Tessa will do whatever it takes to eliminate any threats to her marriage.
Threats from women like Fran.
A cliff overlooks a disused chalk-pit. The locals
call it High Heaven. It’s a place of secrets. And it’s where Oakheart newcomer
Maria died. When Fran discovers a link between Maria and Ben, disturbing
questions arise to which she has no way of knowing the answers.
Faced with an ultimatum from Tessa, time is running
out for Fran. She’s scared, every minute of every day.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This starts with a tragic event and then lapses into normality, which although slow-paced is essential world-building. Told from two points of view Fran and Tessa, you meet Fran first and realise her normal life is unbalanced with a few strange events. You don’t meet Tessa in any detail straight away, but when you do, immediately you realise she is not happy.
The suspense building is steady and relentless, you are constantly waiting for what something bad to happen. Fran appears to be a reliable protagonist, but she does have secrets she wants to keep hidden. Tessa has an agenda, but are past events really as she sees them?
The plot is clever, not too complicated, but effective. I guessed one of the twists early on, believing things are never as obvious as they seem, but the final twist is chilling.
A well-paced story of love, obsession and revenge in an everyday village setting.
I live in Brighton with my husband
and a tabby cat called Chester. After a career in public sector admin, most
recently at the University of Brighton, it was time to stop dreaming about
being a writer and actually do something about it! Fast forward to the present, and now I’m both
traditionally published and self-published, with five women’s fiction novels
under my own name, and five ‘cosy’ reads, writing as Zara Thorne. I’ve also published a book of short stories,
most of which were previously published in The People’s Friend magazine. ‘The
Wife’s Revenge’ is my first foray into the psychological suspense genre.
Glasgow, 1972. Michael Mitchell
is ambitious, talented and determined to succeed. But he learns the hard way
that he will never achieve his goals in life – unless he plays by a different
set of rules.
He partners with a small-time crook to help the Glasgow underworld launder the proceeds of
their crimes. As the operation grows, Michael is forced to become more and more
ruthless to protect what he has built.
Shocked by who he has become, he
vows to leave the criminal world behind and start a new life. But the past has
a way of catching up. Finally, he gambles everything on one last desperate
attempt to break free.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, this story’s ethos is gritty and full of moral dilemmas. Michael is a hard worker and he wants to succeed, but his efforts are overlooked, and soon he uses his powerful intelligence to become successful in a less orthodox way.
Like the author’s previous book set in 1970s Glasgow and London, Love’s Long Road, this story has excellent characters, a clever plot and you constantly question Michael’s choices, there are so many grey areas,
The pacing is fast, and there is a good balance of action, dialogue and introspection. The setting once again steals the show for me, it encompasses the desperation of the 1970s, a time of high unemployment, and the demise of British industry like coal, shipbuilding and steel. When for many crime was the only way out of poverty.
A good, thought-provoking thriller.
I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.
In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.
I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of Love’s Long Road.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
This book explores how isolated we all are. Even though, many of us live in overpopulated cities, how many people do we interact with face to face in a meaningful way?
Lexie and Harriet live next door to each other, Lexie lives with Tom and is desperately trying to get pregnant. Harriet lives alone, but often has noisy parties, Lexie never goes to. Both can hear muffled sounds of life through their apartment wall, and they both envy each other’s life to a degree. Told from both of the women’s points of view, a story of deceit, obsession and deteriorating mental health unfolds.
Harriet’s past life is gradually revealed and you realise what an unreliable protagonist she is. Her story is heartbreakingly sad, and as you understand what motivates her behaviour, the sense of menace and suspense builds.
Lexie is also in the grip of an obsession, she wants a baby to exclusion of all else, this puts a strain on her relationship with Tom, and makes her wonder what it would be like to be Harriet, someone she knows little about.
The story is slow-paced and detailed, and probably slightly longer than it needs to be, but the characters are complex, flawed and relatable, and the plot has many subtle twists. However, what you see, is actually what you get. Whilst this story lacks the big reveal, the delivery has a relentlessness about it, that makes you dread, what is going to happen next. You know it isn’t going to end well for someone.
Glasgow, 1975. How do you cope when your boyfriend kills himself because of you?
WhenBobbie Sinclair’s boyfriend commits suicide and blames her, she vows never to love again. Instead, she chooses to lead a double existence, kind-hearted by day and promiscuous by night. She increasingly struggles to maintain the balance between light and dark and soon finds herself sucked into the world of a controlling and ruthless crime lord from which she must escape.
Set against a vibrant but seedy 1970s Glasgow backdrop, Love’s Long Road plots Bobbie’s desperate plight. Starting a new life but constantly afraid of her past catching up with her, she battles danger, adversity and drug addiction on the long and perilous road back to love.
Love’s Long Road is about dealing with the guilt of terrible events in your past and the risk of being corrupted by the world around you; it is a story that captures to perfection what it was like to be young and single in the 1970s.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Whilst this type of story is not new, it is given a unique interpretation by the author, told from Bobbie’s point of view in the first person. The reader sees the world, and the decisions she makes, through her eyes. This gives this story undeniable originality.
Bobbie is a young, naive woman, riddled with guilt when her boyfriend who she recently broke up with kills himself. She attends his funeral out of respect but feels so responsible for his death that she feels she shouldn’t be there.
What follows, is a painful journey of self-recrimination and ultimately, self-awareness. Her indiscriminate one-night stands, lead her a dangerous path, where she meets Michael, he is dangerous, but she is too naive to appreciate this until her life is irrecoverably altered.
The pacing is fast, and the story follows Bobbie’s experiences as she tries to build a new life, there are sacrifices and victories, but constant running, until a final twist, means running is not an option. At this moral crossroads, Bobbie has to decide what to do, and it here the reader witnesses her character’s maturity and you want her life to be something worthwhile.
The setting is Glasgow and London in the mid to late 1970s, the culture and ethos of the period are faithfully recreated, and gives the story its authenticity and depth.
Overall this is a well-paced journey of self-discovery, with many intense and suspenseful moments and a believable, yet hopeful conclusion,
I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship
Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been
shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in
the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.
In 2017, I was one of twelve authors
selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in
Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in
crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have
spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the
Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road
Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.
went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time
and place for the setting of the majority of Love’s Long Road.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The rape scene in this story is brutal, the violation and loss of control implicit in every word. This description is harrowing. Given the inspiration for this story, the attack is realistic and sets the scene for what follows. This an adult story. One that will upset most people, but it doesn’t detract from it, or the message it is sending.
Eve’s attack and subsequent action is the main storyline, but running alongside her need for retribution is the need for closure to heal, and the need to stop this happening to anyone else. Eve is complex, but she is easy to empathise. You want her to have justice.
Including the friend and lodger characters, may seem incidental to the story, but they are important. Eve’s reaction to them shows how emotionally scarred and traumatised she is, and why she does what she does. They are an important focus for her mental state.
The plot is chilling and suspenseful, and whether or not you agree with the outcome, or what happens before, the ending is well thought out and believable. A fusion of the psychological thriller and crime genres, with authentic emotion and a menacing antagonist, and an ending that leaves you with a moral dilemma. Perfect.
Author Interview – Gemma Rogers – Stalker
What are the inspirations behind your book – Stalker? Is it a standalone or part of a series?
The inspiration for Stalker came from an indecent assault that happened to me back in 2001. I found writing about it extremely cathartic. In terms of the story, I wanted to explore the feelings that can be left behind as a result of such a traumatic event. How far someone would go for justice? It’s a standalone novel that follows Eve from the incident to her resolution.
How did you create your main protagonist Eve? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?
Eve isn’t based on anyone I know, she’s a creation, although very much a part of me. How she feels after her attack, mirrors how I felt almost twenty years ago. She’s a complex character, struggling to understand the emotions she’s forced to deal with; the anger, self-loathing and guilt.
How do you make your characters believable?
I people watch and try to absorb as much as I can when I’m out and about. It’s great to watch and see how people react in certain situations. I also draw from my own experiences too, use those to try and flesh my characters out, make them three dimensional. I hope I’ve managed that with Stalker.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
For me, generally, it’s the plot. I’ll come up with an idea first and it will grow from there. I’m not sure why the idea will plant itself and get bigger until I can’t think of anything else. That’s when I know it’s a good one. However, with Stalker, the setting was equally as important. Where the assault takes place in the novel, is where I grew up. Close to where it actually happened.
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I’ve always written, from a very young age. I’d create stories with my brother, and turn them into little illustrated books, the pages tied together with string. I wrote some fan fiction in my teens but it’s only the past five years I’ve pushed myself to write a book, and actually finish it! I like this genre very much, I’m a lover of horror films and books, dark thrillers seemed right for me. I think the genre chose me rather than the other way around.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I mostly read thrillers; psychological, gritty thrillers, the darker the better. I fell in love with The Birdman by Mo Hayder and was hooked from there. My favourite authors are Alex Marwood, John Marrs, Mark Edwards, and CJ Tudor. However, when I fancy something a bit lighter I always head to Jane Fallon. I’m a massive fan of her writing.
What are you currently writing?
I’m currently in the process of writing Book 3 which I believe will be out at some point in 2020, so that is keeping me busy. Book 2 is due for release in January, so not long to wait.
Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker is her debut novel which Boldwood will publish in September 2019 and marks the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.
Chapter One Saturday 27 January 2018 I’ve never been in trouble before. Not the sort of trouble that brought me here. Freshly painted, stark white walls surround me; their toxic scent lingers in the air. A fluorescent glow from strip lights so dazzling they must be there to desensitise the occupants. Everything is white or chrome-like I’m on the set of a futuristic movie. I swing my legs, which dangle over the edge of the bed, not quite reaching the floor. I do this for a minute to keep warm. Despite the blanket around my shoulders, I can’t help but shiver. It’s late and they didn’t bring my jacket. I guess it’s been taken away as evidence. The woman in front of me is standing too close, hot breath on my arm. It makes me squirm and I fight the urge to yank my hand away from her grip. She’s holding it like I’m a china doll, fragile and easily broken. I dislike the invasion of my personal space. It’s something I’ve learnt to tolerate over the years. I was never a big fan of being touched, shrinking away if someone brushed past me or stood too close on public transport. I’m not a hugger either – no one was in the house where I grew up. After tonight, I can’t imagine I’ll let anyone touch me again. Her name is Doctor Joyce Hargreaves, she told me as we entered the victim examination room. Her job, she said, was to collect evidence from me, which is why she was wearing a paper suit, so there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. She hasn’t picked up on my anxiety, the tremor in my fingers; she’s too busy. Brows furrowed, eyes focused as she peels the plastic bag away from my bloodied hand to collect scrapings from my skin and beneath my fingernails. The tool she uses makes me nervous. ‘Is that a scalpel?’ my voice barely a whisper. ‘No, it’s a scraper. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. This is just so I can make sure we collect any skin cells that may be buried underneath the tips of your nails. I’m afraid I’ll have to give them a trim in a minute too.’ She wields the scraper with care and it’s true, it doesn’t hurt. Physically I’m okay, except my throat is on fire and the ringing in my ears is deafening, timed perfectly with the throbbing of my face. I have a feeling I might feel worse once the adrenaline leaves my system. When she finishes with my hands, she pulls the fallen blanket back over my shoulders and offers a kind smile as she pushes her glasses up her nose. I can see strands of greying hair trying to escape by her ear, exposed beneath the coverall hat. She wears no jewellery and her face is free of make-up. Was she on duty or has she been called out of her bed to attend to me? Would we recognise each other in different circumstances? Probably not, I must be one of many people that pass through this room every day. Joyce delicately inserts each of the specimens into small tubes before labelling them to be sent for analysis. I don’t know why? I’ve told them what happened. Soon she’ll want to examine me thoroughly. Internally. Until there are no more swabs left to be taken. She glances at me, knowing what is coming, what she must ask me to do. Her eyes are full of pity. I must look a mess. Dried blood on my face and chest is beginning to flake away, like charred skin falling into my lap. My cheek is puffy and the vision poor on my left side. I wish I could stop shivering. They said it’s shock and provided me with a mug of hot, sweet tea after the ambulance checked me over. They wanted to make sure the blood I am doused in isn’t mine. It isn’t.