Posted in Book Review

Trust No One- 4* Review – Anthony Mosawi

My name is Sara Eden.

My name is Sara Eden.

My name is Sara Eden.

This is all Sara Eden knows about herself. She was found at the age of ten, abandoned in a vat of water – a homemade sensory-deprivation chamber. Someone had placed her there – trapped for days in the dark, with only a cassette player taped to her head repeating again and again – ‘My Name is Sara Eden’. There were a handful clues: a battered cassette player, a cheap necklace, a few scraps of paper. And a Polaroid of a stranger with a handwritten note: ‘Don’t trust this man’. 

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My Thoughts…

Political thriller meets the ‘X’ Files is the best description of this novel.

Exploring themes prevalent in the eighties when the main protagonist of this story was born. Government’s misuse of people with psychic ability, regardless of the human cost, while not new is absorbing and allows the writer latitude. Not everything has to be believable in a story of this type only possible.

If you are looking for a fast-paced political, spy thriller, you will find this here, with significant twists, Not for the purists but adrenalin-fuelled, intelligent and often poignant, 

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

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#BlogTour: The Pupil- Dawn Goodwin – 4* Review

 

Literary agent Viola Matthews is sure she’s met Katherine Baxter before. So when her husband and bestselling novelist Samuel Morton introduces Viola to the quiet, unassuming woman he has offered to mentor, she knows their paths have crossed before. The question is where?

As their worlds collide and the bond between Samuel and Katherine deepens, Viola realises she must take control. If Viola is right, then Katherine needs to pay for something that happened twelve years ago.

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My Thoughts…

Katherine is a realistic character, yet fulfils the role of unreliable protagonist associated with psychological thrillers. ‘The Pupil’ focuses on Katherine’s ambition to be a successful writer, she is in a controlling marriage and becoming a writer is her way of achieving independence and rising from the problems of the past.

There is suspense, but this is more of a family drama than a psychological thriller. The threat Katherine percieves appears to be visible only to her, which makes you question her mental state but it’s her husband’s treatment of her that is sinister and the real threat to her mental stability.

There are elements of dramatic irony in this, as the thinly disguised significant plot twist means the reader knows who Katherine’s enemy is, but she is oblivious until the final chapters.

A suspenseful read and an excellent family drama but not the twisty, psychological thriller I expected.

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

Dawn’s career has spanned PR, advertising and publishing. Now, she loves to write about the personalities hiding behind the masks, whether beautiful or ugly. Married, she lives in London with her two daughters and a British bulldog called Geoffrey. 

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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 . . .

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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.

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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

Redemption- Candice Fox – 5* Review

When former detective Ted Conkaffey is wrongly accused of abducting a teenage girl, he hopes the Queensland town of Crimson Lake will be the perfect place to disappear.

But nowhere is safe from the girl’s devastated father. Dale Bingley has worked out a brutal revenge plan – and if Ted doesn’t help find his daughter’s real abductor, he’ll be the first casualty.

Meanwhile, in a nearby roadside hovel, the bodies of two young bartenders lie on the beer-sodden floor. As a homicide investigation unravels, Ted and his unlikely ally private detective Amanda Pharrell are brought in to assist on the case.

While Ted fights to clear his own name, their hunt for the killer will draw them into a violent dance with evil.

Redemption is certainly on the cards – but it may well cost them their lives…

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My Thoughts…

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but there is enough information in this second book to position the characters and let the reader know what motivates them and what their demons are.

The setting is atmospheric and has intrinsic interest for a reader unfamiliar with the Australian outback. The characters are unique and vividly depicted. Both detectives are victims of injustice, and this draws them together. There are murders to solve, reputations and lives to reclaim and dramatic irony in this action-packed, detailed and suspenseful to the last moment story.

An enthralling crime thriller with an original plot.

I received a copy of this book from Random HouseUK – Cornerstone, Arrow via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Karin Slaughter – Pieces of Her – 5* Review – Extract

Andrea Oliver is celebrating her birthday over lunch with her mother, Laura when they find themselves in the middle of a deadly shooting.  Terrified, Andy is frozen. But Laura – calm, cool and collected – jumps into action and stops the killer in his tracks. No one can understand how a quiet, middle-aged speech pathologist could possibly have the knowledge or ability to stop a shooter on the rampage.  The fallout and widespread media coverage quickly unravel the carefully curated life Laura has built for herself and her daughter. And Andy discovers that the person who she thought she knew best in the world is a total stranger. The bigger problem though is that someone wants them both dead. As two intersecting timelines – 1986 and the present – gradually converge, Pieces of Her begs the question: can you ever truly escape your past?

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Extract

PROLOGUE

For years, even while she’d loved him, part of her had hated him in that childish way that you hate something you can’t control. He was headstrong and stupid, and handsome, which gave him cover for a hell of a lot of the mistakes he continually made—the same mistakes, over and over again, because why try new ones when the old ones worked so well in his favor?

He was charming, too. That was the problem. He would charm her. He would make her furious. Then he would charm her back again so that she did not know if he was the snake or she was the snake and he was the handler.

So he sailed along on his charm, and his fury, and he hurt people, and he found new things that interested him more, and the old things were left broken in his wake.

Then, quite suddenly, his charm had stopped working. A trolley car off the tracks. A train without a conductor. The mistakes could not be forgiven, and eventually, the second same mistake would not be overlooked, and the third same mistake had dire consequences that had ended with a life being taken, a death sentence being passed, then—almost—resulted in the loss of another life, her life.

How could she still love someone who had tried to destroy her?

When she had been with him—and she was decidedly with him during his long fall from grace—they had raged against the system: The group homes. The emergency departments. The loony bin. The mental hospital. The squalor. The staff who neglected their patients. The orderlies who ratcheted tight the straight jackets. The nurses who looked the other way. The doctors who doled out the pills. The urine on the floor. The faeces on the walls. The inmates, the fellow prisoners, taunting, wanting, beating, biting.

The spark of rage, not the injustice, was what had excited him the most. The novelty of a new cause. The chance to annihilate. The dangerous game. The threat of violence. The promise of fame. Their names in lights. Their righteous deeds on the tongues of schoolchildren who were taught the lessons of change.

A penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter, a dollar bill . . .

What she had kept hidden, the one sin that she could never confess to, was that she had ignited that first spark.

She had always believed—vehemently, with great conviction— that the only way to change the world was to destroy it.

CHAPTER 1

 “Andrea,” her mother said. Then, in concession to a request made roughly one thousand times before, “Andy.”

“Mom—”

“Let me speak, darling.” Laura paused. “Please.”

Andy nodded, preparing for a long-awaited lecture. She was officially thirty-one years old today. Her life was stagnating. She had to start making decisions rather than having life make decisions for her.

Laura said, “This is my fault.”

Andy felt her chapped lips peel apart in surprise. “What’s your fault?”

“You’re being here. Trapped here.”

Andy held out her arms, indicating the restaurant. “At the Rise-n-Dine?”

Her mother’s eyes traveled the distance from the top of Andy’s head to her hands, which fluttered nervously back to the table. Dirty brown hair thrown into a careless ponytail. Dark circles under her tired eyes. Nails bitten down to the quick. The bones of her wrists like the promontory of a ship. Her skin, normally pale, had taken on the pallor of hot dog water.

The catalog of flaws didn’t even include her work outfit. The navy-blue uniform hung off Andy like a paper sack. The stitched silver badge on her breast pocket was stiff, the Belle Isle palm tree logo surrounded by the words police dispatch division. Like a police officer, but not actually. Like an adult, but not really. Five nights a week, Andy sat in a dark, dank room with four other women answering 911 calls, running license plate and driver’s license checks, and assigning case numbers. Then, around six in the morning, she slinked back to her mother’s house and spent the majority of what should’ve been her waking hours asleep.

Laura said, “I never should have let you come back here.”

Andy pressed together her lips. She stared down at the last bits of yellow eggs on her plate.

“My sweet girl.” Laura reached across the table for her hand, waited for her to look up. “I pulled you away from your life. I was scared, and I was selfish.” Tears rimmed her mother’s eyes. “I shouldn’t have needed you so much. I shouldn’t have asked for so much.”

Andy shook her head. She looked back down at her plate. “Darling.”

Andy kept shaking her head because the alternative was to speak, and if she spoke, she would have to tell the truth.

Her mother had not asked her to do anything.

Three years ago, Andy had been walking to her shitty Lower East Side fourth-floor walk-up, dreading the thought of another night in the one-bedroom hovel she shared with three other girls, none of whom she particularly liked, all of whom were younger, prettier and more accomplished when Laura had called. “Breast cancer,” Laura had said, not whispering or hedging but coming straight out with it in her usual calm way. “Stage three. The surgeon will remove the tumor, then while I’m under,

he’ll biopsy the lymph nodes to evaluate—”

Laura had said more, detailing what was to come with a degree of detached, scientific specificity that was lost on Andy, whose language-processing skills had momentarily evaporated. She had heard the word “breast” more than “cancer,” and thought instantly of her mother’s generous bosom. Tucked beneath her modest one-piece swimsuit at the beach. Peeking over the neckline of her Regency dress for Andy’s Netherfield- themed sixteenth birthday party. Strapped under the padded cups and gouging underwires of her LadyComfort Bras as she sat on the couch in her office and worked with her speech therapy patients.

Laura Oliver was not a bombshell, but she had always been what men called very well put together. Or maybe it was women who called it that, probably back in the last century. Laura wasn’t the type for heavy make-up and pearls, but she never left the house without her short gray hair neatly styled, her linen pants crisply starched, her underwear clean and still elasticized.

Andy barely made it out of the apartment most days. She was constantly having to double back for something she had forgotten like her phone or her ID badge for work or, one time, her sneakers because she’d walked out of the building wearing her bedroom slippers.

Whenever people in New York asked Andy what her mother was like, she always thought of something Laura had said about her own mother: She always knew where all the tops were to her Tupperware.

Andy couldn’t be bothered to close a Ziploc bag.

On the phone, eight hundred miles away, Laura’s stuttered intake of breath was the only sign that this was difficult for her. “Andrea?”

Andy’s ears, buzzing with New York sounds, had zeroed back in on her mother’s voice.

Cancer.

Andy tried to grunt. She could not make the noise. This was shock. This was fear. This was unfettered terror because the world had suddenly stopped spinning and everything—the failures, the disappointments, the horror of Andy’s New York existence for the last six years—receded like the drawback wave of a tsunami. Things that should’ve never been uncovered were suddenly out in the open.

Her mother had cancer. She could be dying.

She could die.

Laura had said, “So, there’s chemo, which will by all accounts be very difficult.” She was used to filling Andy’s protracted silences, had learned long ago that confronting her on them was more likely to end up in a fight than a resumption of civil conversation. “Then I’ll take a pill every day, and that’s that. The five-year survival rate is over seventy percent, so there’s not a lot to worry about except for getting through it.” A pause for breath, or maybe in hopes that Andy was ready to speak. “It’s very treatable, darling. I don’t want you to worry. Just stay where you are. There’s nothing you can do.”

A car horn had blared. Andy had looked up. She was standing statue-like in the middle of a crosswalk. She struggled to move. The phone was hot against her ear. It was past midnight. Sweat rolled down her back and leached from her armpits like melted butter. She could hear the canned laughter of a sitcom, bottles clinking, and an anonymous piercing scream for help, the likes of which she had learned to tune out her first month living in the city.

Too much silence on her end of the phone. Finally, her mother had prompted, “Andrea?”

Andy had opened her mouth without considering what words should come out.

“Darling?” her mother had said, still patient, still generously nice in the way that her mother was to everyone she met. “I can hear the street noises, otherwise I’d think we’d lost the connection.” She paused again. “Andrea, I really need you to acknowledge what I’m telling you. It’s important.”

Her mouth was still hanging open. The sewer smell that was endemic to her neighborhood had stuck to the back of her nasal passages like a piece of overcooked spaghetti slapped onto a kitchen cabinet. Another car horn blared. Another woman screamed for help. Another ball of sweat rolled down Andy’s back and pooled in the waistband of her underwear. The elastic was torn where her thumb went when she pulled them down.

Andy still could not recall how she’d managed to force herself out of her stupor, but she remembered the words she had finally said to her mother: “I’m coming home.”

My Thoughts…

Andrea is still looking for her role in life, easily influenced she takes the road of least resistance. Not the most likeable of characters until she is the victim of a violent shooting attack, which shows a different side to her mother and leads Andrea(Andy) on a life-endangering journey of discovery. Laura is well-respected in her small community, but she has a secret past, one she has hidden from her daughter and now threatens their lives.

The beginning is atmospheric and shocking, as is Laura’s reaction to the danger in the mall. The story reveals Laura’s story in 1986 as her daughter Andy discovers it in the present day in the aftermath of the mall incident. The detailed plot portrays the late eighties ethos and prejudices accurately. Urban terrorism is a predominant theme, and again this is realistic and reminiscent of actual events in the late 1970s and1980s.

The mother-daughter dynamic is the foundation of this crime thriller, and it gives the story depth and poignancy that would otherwise be missing. Andy finds out she knows little about her mother but their bond is strong, finding out about her mother’s past frees Andy to be herself and her character development is extensive. She is far more empathic and likeable by the story’s end.

The action is intense and realistic, and necessarily horrific, the language is often crude, but again this adds to the plot’s authenticity. The vivid descriptions make it easy to visualise the action and the characters although sometimes difficult to understand are complex and believable.

A crime thriller with intrinsic suspense and an absorbing family mystery.

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

Karin Slaughter has sold over 35 million books, making her one of the most popular crime writers today. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestsellers Cop Town and Pretty Girls. Her previous novel, The Good Daughter, was a no.1 Sunday Times bestseller in paperback. She is passionate, no-nonsense, provocative, and is one of suspense fiction’s most articulate ambassadors. Her Will Trent Series, Grant County Series, and stand-alone novel Cop Town are all in development for film & television. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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…

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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

The Liars Room – 4* Review – Simon Lelic

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong. 
She doesn’t know him. 
BUT HE KNOWS HER. 
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

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My Thoughts…

My lasting impression from this intense thriller is the tragic waste of life and potential. Even though most of the present-day action takes place in the therapist’s room, there are frequent flashbacks to past events, which add depth to the story and give insight into the two main protagonists motivations and why they find themselves in the room.

The story flows well, and you’re drawn into their lives. It’s not an exciting thriller, there is action, but most of it occurs in the past. Family tragedy and secrets are this story’s focus. The suspense is well written, and it builds until the secrets are revealed, and the situation in the room becomes explosive.

It’s hard to identify the antagonist in this story, as the title suggests their lives are riddled with lies, the plot maintains its momentum, but it is perhaps just a little longer than needed.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK 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.

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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

5* Review – Cristina Alger – The Banker’s Wife

The only thing worse than finding out that your husband is dead is discovering the secrets he left behind.

Annabel’s seemingly perfect ex-patriate life in Geneva is shattered when her banker husband Matthew’s plane crashes in the Alps. When Annabel finds clues that his death may not be all it seems, she puts herself in the crosshairs of powerful enemies and questions whether she really knew her husband at all.

Meanwhile, journalist Marina is investigating Swiss United, the bank where Matthew worked. But when she uncovers evidence of a shocking global financial scandal that implicates someone close to home, she is forced to make an impossible choice.

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My Thoughts…

Authentic detail, fast-paced action, and spine-tingling suspense make this international thriller absorbing and unputdownable. Succinctly introduced the key players seem unconnected at the outset but as tragedy strikes, their roles align and give the reader a realistic, contemporary thriller to enjoy.

Told from two points of view; Annabel, ‘The Banker’s Wife’ and Marina the society journalist find themselves up against the establishment and might of the international financial sector. One is personally affected, the other an objective observer, but lines are blurred, and both women put themselves in danger to find and reveal the truth and stop international corruption and murder.

A detailed plot demands concentration but the clues to solve the mysteries posed are there. The menacing ethos simmers in the background before exploding in the final chapters, making you wonder if the truth will come out and if the protagonists will live to see it.

The perfect weekend read.

I received a copy of this book from Mulholland Books – Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.