When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start.
Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend. Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.
Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The opening chapter of this story takes the reader back to 1964 and a domestic scene, relatable yet with sinister implications. Time moves forward to 2012 when Stina and her partner move into Whisper Cottage. Stina’s unplanned pregnancy, the catalyst for the country move. Immediately there are echoes with the book’s beginning, and you wonder if they too will feel the pressures of raising a young child.
This is an atmospheric story with hints of supernatural events and the possibility of mental health issues for the young expectant mother. Stina is an unreliable protagonist. The reader is never sure if she sees what she thinks she does. The villagers’ archaic reaction to Stina’s neighbour is complex, disturbing and believable.
The intricate world-building slows the pace but is integral to the story’s authenticity. The plot twists are impactful. This is an intriguing gothic style mystery with hints of domestic noir and psychological suspense.
Anne Wyn Clark lives in the UK, in the Midlands, with her husband, son and a feisty chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that…) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions. She is passionate about animals and their welfare. Whilst she has enjoyed writing for many years, a love of all things gothic inspired her to try her hand at producing something dark and twisty, culminating in the haunting Whisper Cottage.
When Detective Kjeld Nygaard is called to the discovery of a body in the burnt-out shell of a house, his heart sinks. He never wanted to see this house again. The house of a notorious serial killer. The house where he rescued Louisa Karlsson from being murdered.
But when they discover the body is in fact Louisa, the mystery deepens. It can’t be the old serial killer. He’s dead.
Then another body is found, again killed in the exact place where Kjeld saved them from another murderer. Another survivor dead.
With the clock ticking Kjeld and his partner Detective Esme Jansson are desperate to stop any more survivors from being murdered. But every clue they find leads to a dead end. Why is the killer picking off people Kjeld rescued? Could it be connected to another of his previous cases?
When Kjeld’s daughter is kidnapped – it’s a race against time to save her life. Can Kjeld stop the killer without paying the ultimate price or will he be the last one alive?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Chilling and claustrophobic, the second book in the Detective Kjeld Nygaard Scandi crime series draws the reader into a disturbing world of death. Attacks on survivors trouble Kjeld, as he struggles with guilt over his personal life and his connections to a serial killer. The dynamic between Kjedl and Esme, his partner, is believably written. We discover more about Esme’s personal life and find, she too, has secrets. The story intensifies as Kjeld tries to unravel the murders with their disturbing personal connection.
The story is rooted in Scandinavia, and this adds an engaging dimension, coupled with the complexly flawed protagonists, the menacing murders and the twisty plot.
It was the house of their dreams. Until the bodies were found . . .
BODIES FOUND UNDER PATIO
When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations the last thing she expects is builders uncovering a body – two bodies, in fact.
Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Nothing Saffy need worry herself over. Until the police launch a murder investigation and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – her grandmother, Rose.
Rose is in a care home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police but it is clear she remembers something.
A KILLER AT LARGE?
As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saffy fears she and the cottage are being watched.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Atmospheric, chilling and poignant, this psychological suspense is a page-turning read. It’s a family drama spanning three generations with timeslips back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time I lived through.
The main protagonists are flawed and relatable, making the menacing events and revelations resonate. The twists are impactful with some, easier to work out than others. The balance of pacing and the gradual revealing of the lies and secrets keeps the reader absorbed until the end.
It isn’t unusual for crop circles to appear overnight on Hackpen Hill. In this part of Wiltshire, where golden wheat fields stretch for miles, the locals have got used to discovering strange mathematical patterns stamped into the earth.
But this time, it’s different. Not only because this particular design of dramatic spiralling hexagons has never been seen before. But because of the dead body positioned precisely in the centre of the circle. DI Silas Hart, of Swindon Police, is at a loss.
Only Jim, a scientist at secretive government laboratory Porton Down, knows the chilling truth about the man on Hackpen Hill. And he wants Bella, a trainee journalist on her first ever story, to tell the world. But Silas has other ideas – and a boss intent on a cover up.
As Bella and Jim race against time, dark forces conspire against them, leading them to confront the reality of their own past and a world in which nothing is as it seems.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
This story has an intrinsic sense of authenticity, which is in itself chilling given the disturbing elements it explores. It features the detective team of Silas and Strover, a familiar combination if you’ve read the authors other psychological thrillers. It begins with a disquieting prologue that sets the scene for what follows. Bella leaves Oxford for a fledgling career in journalism. Her complex past unfolds as the story progresses. Silas and Strover are investigating a death in a crop circle which leads them into the fields of secret laboratories and mental health issues. Jim meets Bella in a Wiltshire pub, accidentally he believes at first.
The story is told from these points of view. The police investigation is absorbing and allows the reader to make their deductions. Bella and Jim are both unreliable protagonists, but they are easy to empathise with. The plot is fast-paced with its short chapters. The use of sensory imagery makes the events easy to imagine. The plot twists are impactful. The story changes perspective dramatically but realistically and is addictive reading. The climactic ending is satisfying, delivering action, poignancy and positivity for the main protagonists.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
Reading this story is like opening Pandora’s box, compelling, creepy and full of unexpected consequences.
In an attempt to rescue their marriage after ten years, Amelia and Adam head to the remote Scottish Highlands. It’s clear from the beginning both have secrets and that they dislike each other. The setting is atmospheric and claustrophobic, and the writer’s excellent use of sensory imagery immerses the reader in the gothic setting.
Told from Amelia, Adam and later Robin’s viewpoints, the reader has an omnipotent view of the character’s motivations, but all three are unreliable, so who can you trust? There is also a series of secret letters which give the reader something to think about.
As the story progresses, the twists intensify. This story keeps you gripped until the very last word. You unravel part of the truth, but there is always more to discover. The characters are complex, damaged by their pasts, and have many unlikeable traits. Despite these, this story has a poignant ethos drawing the reader’s empathy.
The ending is believable, impactful and thought-provoking.
I received a copy of this book from Severn House and the author in return for an honest review.
This is a gently paced story that follows four women whose lives are inextricably linked. The scene is set in a macabre way, and graphic and gruesome description is a feature of this story. It’s about abuse, evil, identity and loneliness and these relevant issues resonate throughout. The story has a great sense of place, and this adds to its atmospheric qualities.
The gingerbread house with its fairytale connations is the perfect foil for this story which focuses on evil in many forms. There is an underlying ethos of sadness in this story that highlights the vulnerability of the three women drawn into the gingerbread house.
This is not an easy read, the themes are disturbing, and parts take on a nightmarish quality, but it is cleverly plotted with well-crafted characters who evoke empathy and dislike in the reader.
Born in West Lothian and educated at Edinburgh University, Catriona McPherson has been a full-time fiction writer since 2001. She is the multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver historical mysteries, the Last Ditch mysteries and a number of standalone psychological thrillers. She lives in northern California.
IF HE WANTS YOU . . . THERE’S NO ESCAPE. A brutal murder . . . Responding to a tip-off, newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Paolo Sterling arrives at an apartment block to find the dismembered body of a young woman. And with no indication of a break-in, all signs suggest the killer was known to her.
An abduction in plain sight . . . Then the victim’s friend is snatched with no witnesses and the unanswered questions mount up.
At the same time, Sterling’s team are leading the surveillance of a local club, thought to be involved in a drug operation. But when one of his colleagues ends up in hospital close to death, Paolo begins to lose his grip.
A detective on the edge . . . With the odds stacked against him, and time running out, can DCI Sterling uncover the truth before it’s too late? Or will this case finally tip him over the edge?
I received a copy of this book from the author and Headline Accent via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is my first read from the Detective Inspector Sterling series. Despite this being book five, I quickly connected with the detective and his team. Sterling is newly promoted to DCI. He is grieving the death of a colleague, and friend which affects his rapport with one team member. Overall the investigative team has a good dynamic, but they are overstretched with high profile cases that may have a connection.
The investigation is easy to follow several twists keep the reader guessing. The reader also has insight into the antagonist’s viewpoint, which is chilling and suspenseful. There is a good balance of personal and professional insights into Sterling’s life which makes him believable.
The story flows well, and the ending ties up all the leads nicely. It poses a question to be answered in the next book in the series.
Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.
Author of the D.I. Sterling series of novels, Lorraine has been engaged in many writing-related activities. A columnist for Writing Magazine, she has recently stepped down from writing two columns for Writers’ Forum and also her role as head judge of the magazine’s monthly fiction competitions in order to concentrate on her own writing. She is currently writing two standalone psychological thrillers for Headline Accent.
She also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.
Published by Head of Zeus 8th July 2021 | Paperback Currently £7.19
Ambition can be deadly…
Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands. But even in this beautiful coastal spot, tensions swirl. Once one of the world’s most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American business woman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one.
Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network’s lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda’s evil husband Jake, vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off the show.
As the dawn of a new era begins, cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.
In a true battle of the sexes, these women will do anything to stay on top. But can they team up to bring down their male rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge tear their long held friendships apart?
As the story reaches a climax so shocking readers will be talking about it for decades, one thing is certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…
Over 25 million people in the UK watch soaps a week and now they’ll get a true glimpse of what really goes on behind the scenes of TV’s most popular shows, and examples of the desperate trade off’s their beloved leading ladies go through to survive the very game they are in. Ruthless Women shows that what takes place behind the cameras is way more juicy than on….
Even the actresses, who Melanie was worried would be angry about what she’s written, are raving about Ruthless Women too. Well, some of them are….
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
Scandalous, sexy thrillers based on real experiences and personalities are always addictive. Ruthless Women’s vibrant characters and vivid scenarios make guessing the inspiration behind them a must. The abuse of authority and prejudice are relatable, and the intelligent way the women fight against them believable. The female characters are flawed but easy to empathise. Hidden agendas and twists make this an intriguing read.
Scandal, secrets and sex underpin the story of a ruthless boss determined to make a once top-rated show great again. The dynamic between Farrah, Catherine, Amanda and Sheena is insightful and the force behind the story. It is both their strength and weakness, which Madeline exploits to her advantage.
This story has a poignant side which gives it depth and immerses the reader into the characters lives. The noir world simmering below the surface of television’s glamorous facade is the perfect setting for this story of ambition, friendship, revenge and scandal.
The suspense builds coupled with striking sensory imagery, as the story develops and the final chapters are full of twists, with a climactic ending.
I can’t wait for the next book.
At 15 Melanie Blake dreamed of being a writer, but was told by her English teacher that the only thing she’d ever write were labels for factory boxes. Severely dyslexic, and desperate to escape a childhood of poverty and religious extremism in Stockport, she left school with no qualifications and ran away from home.
Against all odds, Melanie managed to blag her way onto the lowest rung of the showbiz ladders, working as an extra on Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders and a camera assistant on Top Of The Pops. It was during this time that she got her first big break aged 21, when soap icon Claire King chose Melanie to be her agent. Her agency was an immediate success, and she would go on to represent the likes of Patsy Kensit, Michelle Collins, Stephanie Beacham, Emily Lloyd, Denise Welch, Jennie McAlpine, Laila Morse, Daniella Westbrook, Amanda Barrie, Gillian Taylforth and Nadia Sawalha; earning herself the tag ‘Queen of Soaps’.
Melanie wrote her first book The Thunder Girls when she was working in the music industry as a young woman. She was told no one wanted to read a book about middle aged female singers on a comeback tour and so it wasn’t until 2019, twenty years after she first put pen to paper, that The Thunder Girls was finally published by Pan Macmillan, becoming an Amazon number one bestseller. She adapted it for the stage herself and it went on to break box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.
Her second novel, Ruthless Women has been an even bigger success, going straight into the Sunday Times hardback fiction chart at number four, staying in the top ten for a month, and also charting in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, as well as foreign language translation rights being picked up by Russia, Romania and Hungary; meaning Melanie Blake is going global. Ruthless Women is inspired by Melanie’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of British soap operas. In the UK alone, over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. They say write about what you know, and in Ruthless Women, Melanie certainly has.
Melanie still represents some of the best-known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a columnist, producer, author and playwright. She lives in London and is available for interview and to write features, and this woman has got a lot of stories!
As a barrister, Ingrid Lewis is used to dealing with tricky clients, but no one has ever come close to John Webster. After Ingrid defended Webster against a stalking charge, he then turned on her – following her, ruining her relationship, even destroying her home.
Now, Ingrid believes she has finally escaped his clutches. But when one of her colleagues is run down on a busy London road, Ingrid is sure she was the intended victim. And then Webster shows up at her door…
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is an intelligent, layered psychological suspense where the main protagonist is a barrister. Her interpretation of events is concise, considered and critical. Ingrid has elements of unreliability that are notable for the protagonists in this genre, but with a few exceptions, she is trustworthy. John is a sociopath. Complex, he keeps his true intentions secret until the climactic conclusion.
The legalistic setting has intrinsic interest. The plot is twisty and the characters shadowy, creating an ethos of menace and mystery. The lines of right and wrong are blurred, and the differences between justice and the law explored through the events that unfold.
This is a compelling story with convincing characters and a set of events that are frighteningly real.
‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’
Your best friend….
From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend. Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.
Even keep her darkest secrets…
The years have passed, but their friendship remains. And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.
Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is. Won’t she?
Your worst nightmare?
But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow – always the bridesmaid, never the bride. And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman. Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying.
Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Toxic friendships, dysfunctional families and class divide are all explored in this psychological suspense. Three timelines are woven together to deliver an absorbing story that has many noir elements. Sasha’s friendship with Caitlin is unequal at best. The two girls are divided by class and familial expectations. Sasha’s family works at the house, Caitlin is the owner’s treasured granddaughter. The story of how the girls meet and grow up together is merged with a fateful birthday party where everything changes and the wedding where revenge is sought and revelations abound.
The characterisation is good, but Caitlin and Sasha still manage to keep their secrets until the end. There are many disturbing themes explored believably in this story. Poignant and shocking with a surprising ending.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.