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.

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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.

Posted in Book Review

Jar of Hearts – 5* Review – Jennifer Hillier

Aged just 16, Geo’s best friend Angela disappeared without a trace. Years later, Angela’s body is discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home, revealed as yet another victim of the notorious serial killer Calvin James. Geo’s high-school boyfriend.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what had happened and told no one, carrying the secret until she was arrested and sent to prison. Why would any woman protect a man capable of committing such a heinous crime? Geo had her reasons…

To Geo, Calvin is more than a monster, a serial killer with no remorse. He is something else entirely. And while Geo did her time, Calvin escaped and went on the run. Now released, Geo is ready to start over. But then the bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela…

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Reading the title, I wasn’t sure if I was about to embark on a romantic tale or a macabre journey. ‘A Jar of Hearts’ is neither of these, although it does feature an unlikely romantic and serial killings.

It’s a thriller about retribution, forgiveness, obsession and lies. Geo rises like a phoenix from the ashes in the aftermath of her friend’s disappearance. Years later she finds that her lies come back to haunt her and then her life implodes. Geo keeps ‘The Jar of Hearts’ as a reminder of that fateful night.

There are many subtle twists in this story, but even if you understand them, they don’t reveal everything. The murders are shocking and graphically portrayed, but only to demonstrate the murder’s state of mind. The ending is both poignant and disturbing and perfect for this absorbing book.

Suspenseful, surprisingly and often shocking; ‘A Jar of Hearts’ is a compelling read.

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

Posted in Book Review

5* Review- Watching You – Lisa Jewell

You’re back home after four years working abroad, new husband in tow.

You’re keen to find a place of your own. But for now, you’re crashing in your big brother’s spare room.

That’s when you meet the man next door.

He’s the head teacher at the local school. Twice your age. Extraordinarily attractive. You find yourself watching him.

All the time.

But you never dreamed that your innocent crush might become a deadly obsession.

Or that someone is watching you.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…
‘Watching You’ doesn’t have the menacing thread usually associated with psychological thrillers but it’s plentiful in suspense and mystery, and the ending has many twists before being revealed. The characters are believable and ordinary, no sinister serial killer looms in the background but something tragic occurs, and there are numerous suspects.

The ending is tragic and leaves its mark on the reader.

Fast-paced, there are multiple character points of views, but they’re easy to follow. Watch out for the twists because nothing is as it first appears. An absorbing read.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House UK – Cornerstone, Century via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

the tall man – Phoebe Locke- 4*Review

A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.

1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.

He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…

YOU DON’T FIND HIM… HE FINDS YOU. 

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

This story starts off sinister and creepy, and this urban myth should have held me spellbound, but it didn’t. There are numerous sub-plots most of which feed the main storyline. The story’s pacing is in the main fast, but there are areas mired in detail that make it drag.

The plot’s supernatural element alluded to in the blurb and title fades into the background, amidst the making of the documentary and Amber’s relationship with her parents. Well executed plot’s twists in an ethos that is undeniably chilling and sinister make the facts of the story when revealed genuinely horrific but the connection to ‘the tall man’ seems tenuous.

A good thriller with authentic characters, vivid setting and carefully built suspense, it just needs the supernatural element to be more prominent to be great.

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

Posted in Book Review

You Were Gone – 5* Review – Tim Weaver

 

Three days after Christmas, a woman walks into a police station. She has no phone and no ID, just a piece of paper with the name of investigator David Raker on it. She tells officers that Raker is her husband.

SHE SAYS SHE’S MY WIFE.

When he turns up at the station, Raker is stunned. The woman looks exactly like his wife. She knows all about their marriage, their history, even private conversations the two of them had. There’s just one problem: Raker’s wife has been dead for eight years.

MY WIFE DIED . . . DIDN’T SHE?

The woman tells the police that Raker had a breakdown. A respected doctor backs up her account. Items are missing that prove Raker’s side of the story – and, worst of all, he soon becomes the prime suspect in a disappearance.

SHE’S EITHER A LIAR – OR I AM.

Could Raker have imagined their whole marriage? Is he delusional? Is this really the woman he loved and grieved for? Hunted by the police, Raker will have to find out the truth before it costs him everything – his memories, his sanity, his life . . .

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

‘You Were Gone’ is chilling, sinister and all the more terrifying because it’s believable. Raker doubts his sanity, and he’s not alone. Is the woman claiming to be his beloved wife her and how can she be when she died?
Raker still grieves his wife, and it’s this vulnerability that makes this thriller work. Circumstances conspire to make him doubt everything he has built his life on since Derryn’s death.

The story is told from Raker’s point of view with additional scenes from the antagonist’s point of view but is this Raker or someone else? Each chapter builds the suspense and tension, and as the plot starts to reveal the truth, more twists throw up additional questions and possible suspects.

The ending is surprising but ties up most of the loose ends, however, a problem looms on the horizon for Raker as his and other’s past actions return to haunt him, perhaps in the next instalment of this thrilling series.

Even though this is the first Raker thriller I’ve read, I warmed to his deep and troubled character and found the story a compelling but easy read.

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

Posted in Book Review

BlogTour: What Did I Do? Jessica Jarlvi – 4*Review

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

When two murders happen in Chicago, a witch-hunt ensues, and Kristin quickly finds herself at the centre.

The problem is she isn’t sure of what she did or didn’t do. Armed with a life insurance payout, she runs away to Sweden 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?

 

Links to buy

 Amazon UK 

Amazon

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2EJuXRk

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2IRxvPO

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Hwy4za

 

 

My Thoughts…

Multiple characters provide tantalising snippets of information in this psychological thriller. Set in Chicago and Sweden, this story has the pacing and sinister elements of a Scandinavian thriller.

All the characters have psychological issues, which makes finding the antagonist difficult. I did work out most the plot before the end, but there were a couple of surprises. 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.

The story’s pace is slow and won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like Scandinavian thrillers this has all the essential requirements.

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

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: @JessicaJarlvi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.jarlvi.graham

Posted in Book Review, Guest post

Blog Tour: If He Wakes – Zoe Lea -Guest Post 5* Review

 

You can always trust your best friend… can’t you?

When Rachel discovers a Twitter message arranging a romantic liaison she assumes her husband is having an affair and follows him. What she witnesses is so much worse: a hit and run using his car.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s friend and business partner Suzie is increasingly worried about her fiance, who’s not been in touch for days. When Suzie learns of huge debts racked up in her name she fears he has run out on her, but then the threatening calls start and she thinks something terrible has happened.

Rachel and Suzie are both about to learn shocking things about the men they love, worse than they could ever imagine… Can their friendship survive?

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Zoe Lea – IF HE WAKES – Guest Post

Why I write psychological thrillers

I wrote that title thinking there’d be a really easy answer, but as I’ve sat here, looking at the blank page for ten minutes, I’ve realised that there isn’t an easy answer at all. 

The thing is, I didn’t set out to write psychological thrillers.  I started writing young adult books, which are a bit different, so it’s not like my route to writing If He Wakes was simple.

I’ve always really enjoyed writing.  I had a small success into the foray of publishing when, at sixteen, I had a short story accepted for Jackie magazine (which way back then, was one of those publications aimed at teenage girls.) I continued to write for them for a few years until the magazine folded and so when it I felt I was ready to have a go at writing a book, which was almost ten years later I might add, I felt a young adult book was the natural choice.

So I wrote a young adult novel, and it was bad.  Not good at all.  It was about a teenager pretending she was pregnant so she could illicit revenge on some lad that had dumped her. It got a bit of interest from some agents, but ultimately it went nowhere. 

Then I wrote another, this time, going for the romance market. It was about a girl who falls for a boy in a band, only she doesn’t find out he’s famous until it’s too late, and she’s been forced into the shallow world of celebrity and fame. 

That one did even worse than the first, so in short, I gave up.  Putting your writing out there is hard, and even harder when you’re getting numerous rejections, so I stopped for a while and went back to short stories.

It was a few years later that I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing. My close friend was seriously writing at the time, and we discussed the process of writing endlessly.  She’d started to write a book, a really great book, and she kept on telling me that I should be writing one too. 

I thought about it.  Looked at the young adult market and what was selling, tried to come up with a premise that I thought agents and publishers would like, and then as the feeling of dread descended, I suddenly realised I was doing it all wrong.  I didn’t even read young adult books so what made me think I would like writing them?

It sounds obvious now, but really, it took me an age to realise.  You hear so often, ‘write what you know,’ instead of, ‘write what you like.’

I looked at the books I was reading, the authors whom I admired, all crime, all thrillers. 

It still took me a while before I plucked up the courage to even start writing in this genre.  It was daunting, I found I was endlessly comparing my work to the authors I coveted, but then, once I got going, I found I couldn’t stop. 

Unlike when I was writing young adult, when I had to drag myself to the keyboard and try to stack up my word count, writing If He Wakes was a joy.  I was thinking about my characters all day, I couldn’t sleep because of the situations I’d put them in, in short, I was excited about my book.  About my plot.  About how I’d get the characters out of the situations I’d put them in.  It was like trying to solve a massive jigsaw puzzle, and I loved it.

So why do I write psychological thrillers?  Because I love them.  Because this type of book exhilarates me, it fills me with anxiety so real in places that I flinch when I write certain scenes.  It takes me on a rollercoaster, it entertains me, and it’s because these are the types of books that dominate my shelves.

Zoe Lea lives in the Lake District with her husband, their two children, three dogs and peregrine falcons. She has previously worked as a teacher, photographer and freelance journalist and is a writer in the day and a reader by night. If He Wakes is her debut novel.

Twitter: @zoe___lea

Instagram: ZoeLeaWriter

 

My Thoughts…

An absorbing, believable first chapter perfectly sets the scene for what is to come, in this tense and shocking psychological thriller. Told from Rachel and Suzie’s points of view the two friends both experience increasingly disturbing events in their otherwise ordinary lives that leave them doubting everything they previously believed; threatening, their friendship and sanity.

The plot cleverly conceals more than it reveals and just when you think you’ve solved the mystery, you find another twist. Authentic characters complement the realistic storyline in a readable mix of action and introspection. The genuinely chilling factor of this story is it could happen and probably has, real nail-biting, what if it happened to me? Experience the nightmare without the consequences when you read this book.

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

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: 3*Review – Her Greatest Mistake – Sarah Simpson

 

Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?

Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage…which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg – instead, Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.

So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she’s least expecting it, he will find them…

What was Eve’s greatest mistake?

Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?

 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2pGfaOu

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2DWDr7j

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2G7ZFtd

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Gsq2Jz

 

 

Extract

Chapter Six

Cornwall 2016

I creep nervously into my own home; listening. Silence. Keys clasped tightly in my hand. No obvious signs of an intruder, no kicked-down doors or shattered crockery strewn across the floor. My heart pounds in my ears like a damp drum as I slink through the kitchen towards the back door. Startled, as a dark shadow thuds at the window. I jump and drop my keys. The minute sound of my keys hitting hard floor fills the room. ‘Christ, Humphrey, why did you do that?’ He waits in total nonchalance at the foot of the door outside. I rattle the handle and breathe again. Thank God, I did lock the door.

But still, there is something alien dangling in the air. If I didn’t know better, if the door had been unlocked, I’d swear someone has been in my home.

I pull open the door to an appreciative ball of fluff; he wraps himself around my legs. Purring. I pick him up and snuggle my face into indulgent fur, allowing my heartbeat to return to baseline. ‘You’re coming upstairs with me, mister, keep me company whilst I get ready for work. Frightening me like that, how could you? Haven’t you realised you’re living with a neurotic woman?’

I survey the sitting room as I creep through, before gingerly taking the stairs, still half-expecting someone to jump out. ‘What’s wrong with me, Humph, eh? Why can’t you talk to me? Did you see anyone?’ I sneak along the landing towards my bedroom, stopping to check Jack’s room first, all the usual potential hiding places. The wardrobe, under the bed. Nothing but used crockery – Jack and his blinking late-night cereal cravings. Still, with Humphrey purring in my arms, I move on to my room.

I place him on my bed, where he immediately stretches out to fill the abstract shape of sun rays. ‘So tell me, Humph, to pull myself together. No one’s been in the house. The door was locked, and there’s no other way in.’ Big round eyes glare back at me before he begins his grooming process. ‘No useful words of wisdom, eh? Anything will do? Or have you been silenced? Coerced to the dark side?’ He gives me the look of disdain only cats can do. ‘I get it, you’re just refusing to humour me. Wise move.’

I convince myself it’s safe for the moment. I need to get a move on for work. An invigorating shower of soft florals, all the time with a watchful eye on the door. Only panicking when the shampoo temporarily obscures my vision, rinsing it through as quickly as if my life depends on it. Not long later, I leave the house, double-checking the locks. Not bad, a transformation from home-comfort clothes to a tailored azure dress. Softly applied make-up, coral lips. Elegant shoes with a sharp distinguishing echo. Finally, my files, mobile and diary. All in less than thirty minutes. Trepidation has its perverse benefits.

Ready for another borrowed day.

Choosing where to open my clinic was easy. I peered through sash windows before a toadying agent opened the door to the pretty, terraced, Cornish sandstone and slate building. Proudly nestled between its charming, unassuming neighbours. Two mottled slate steps lead the way to the solid wood door of 39b Lemon Street. Warm, humble and crammed with character. Inside, a large reception window films passing life, sweeping down to the heart of Truro. ‘Sometimes, things just feel right,’ I’d agreed with the toady agent.

Knowing Ruan, my fresh-faced, uncomplicated-by-life assistant, will always be there to open up first is a blessing. Despite his ungodly early morning jaunt to catch the sunrise waves. He’s then usually followed by Bea, the physiotherapist who sublets a room. Today, when I push through the door, characteristically late, the sunlight fills the reception area, elbowing through the leaded window. The cream slatted blinds are pulled back tight to allow shimmering beams to create a warming ambience. Thoughtful shadows grace the archetypal dense walls. Not all shadows are dark, I remind myself.

My Thoughts…

Thrillers based on domestic violence are a favourite psychological thriller theme, but this one makes an impact because of its professional language and authenticity. It’s not easy to read, the author jumps between timelines, the abuser and his victims but although it is sometimes difficult to follow, it makes it realistic and believable.

The premise drew me in, and in many ways, it does fulfil its promise. The descriptions of Eve’s life with Gregg are detailed and vivid. There’s no doubt about his systematic destruction of her. For me, there is too much detail and too many examples of abuse. I don’t need to drown in detail to understand.

His pursuit of her after ten years is carried out with similar ruthless intent. Again this is overlong for me; the medical detail sometimes detracts from the story’s compelling suspense element. The characters are not easy to empathise. Mainly due to the writing style relying more on narration than showing how the characters feel through their actions and emotions.

Overall it is a promising debut, with explicit professional knowledge and experience, a little more storytelling and a little less professional speke would make this a real page-turner.

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

Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.

 

Twitter: @sarahrsimpson

Facebook: @sarahsimpsoncornwall