A student kidnapped from the park. Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise, she will die.
An investigator running out of time. Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.
A killer playing a dangerous game. Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Gaming is a major theme of this detailed, fast-paced thriller. The book corresponds to levels in a video game, starting at level three, with a tense, action-filled, seemingly desperate rescue, and then moving back two days to level one, and the first disappearance.The story progresses through each level in the two days preceding the rescue, with pertinent flashbacks to level three, and historical interludes, to give the reader insight in Colter Shaw, his upbringing, and what motivates his constant restlessness.
Colter Shaw, a man of many talents, who sometimes searches for missing people, good or bad for the reward offered. Hehad a unique upbringing, off the grid, by loving parents. His parents choice of lifestyle to bring up their children is odd, given that they lived mainstream, and were respected academics, but as the story progresses you realise that they had their reasons.
Colter is searching for answers to his own personal dilemmas, and these are part of this first story, but although some clues are given, the mystery and questions remain, for the next books in the series.Colter is an intelligent investigator, who lives by a set of rules, drilled into him by his father. He is complex, compassionate, clever and easy to like.
The plot is pacy and has plenty of twists, there are political undertones to the story and a detailed understanding of the popularity of gaming and its impact on twenty-first-century society. Don’t be put off, if you are not a devotee of gaming, I’m not, but whilst it is integral to the story, it doesn’t take over, the mystery and the suspense are front and centre and these are addictive and engaging.
‘The Never Game’, is easy to read, with an enigmatic protagonist, and an exciting plot.
At Halloween, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours.
They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. But those photographs will be the last record of any of them.
Because by the next morning, the whole village has vanished.
With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to investigator David Raker – and their obsession becomes his.
What secrets were the neighbours keeping from their families – and from each other?
Were they really everything they seemed to be?
And is Raker looking for nine missing people – or nine dead bodies?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Investigator David Raker, who specialises in finding missing people is a driven, complex man, who seems to make both enemies and friends wherever he goes. Haunted by his past actions and losses, he is always looking over his shoulder. Empathetic, intelligent, and a risk taker, he is the person you want in your corner if you need to find the truth.
Nine people disappeared without a trace two and a half years ago, and now the son of one of the missing people wants Raker to investigate their disappearance. Over thirty years previously in Los Angeles, a female detective is hunting for a murderer, storylines seem unconnected, but as they both progress they converge and the historical illuminates the present.
Both stories are complex, full of details and vividly written characters. There are many similarities between Raker and Jo, both are dedicated, intelligent detectives, who work in hostile environments. The late 1980s setting portrays the lawless ethos and prejudices of the era perfectly, which makes the retro chapters both atmospheric and authentic.
The present-day, chapters are no less absorbing. The Black Gale hamlet is a contemporary ‘Mary Celeste’, nothing seems out of place, but everything is wrong. As the suspense level increases, even the ordinary events Raker witnesses are menacing.
The final chapters are so vivid, as Raker finally realises the truth, but this is not the end, just the beginning of the most intense, adrenaline-fueled action and despair. Even the ending leaves you wondering, it seems that everything is resolved, but then you go back and begin to wonder if the worst is yet to come.
Clever plot twists, complex characters and a pervading air of despair and menace make this thriller one of the best of 2019.
best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.
Becky Morgan’s family were
the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.
The lone survivor of a
ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.
Twenty years later, with
the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But
the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening
up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.
Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.
So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.
The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.
Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.
Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize. TwitterFacebook
Avenging Angels – Pat Black
In The Family,
we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding
the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for
dead when she was just a girl.
Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear,
and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.
She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…
Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern
tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to
define our times for future generations.
She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.
Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.
She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a
genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an
ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before
you can finish shuffling the pack.
The end justifies the means for Salander, whether
that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s
life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of
violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re
always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”
Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of
several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and
this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.
The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves
his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose
their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes
despises this villain.
That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman
who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into
Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps
on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an
early grave after exposing her secrets.
“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool
again and again. “And that!”
I never forgot that savagery after first reading the
story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the
last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above
But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at
point blank range.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
No, he definitely will not.
Goodness me, everyone
gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or
two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a
biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic
Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s
debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the
heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home
for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.
Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie
is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school,
imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies,
both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie
White, with their own tragic fates.
Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending.
There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town
shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a
gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she
might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply
cannot allow that.
And then… Blood and fire.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No.
But, you notice something here? These were all written
by men. So…
Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short
stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother,
keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has
invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal,
loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.
There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.
There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.
In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to
glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on
new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get
even with Bobbo.
There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.
Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.
“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”
Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that
she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her
creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience
of being dead.
The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence
after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her
best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.
Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.
Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.
When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
What a fabulously chilling ending this story has, I thought I’d worked it out but I didn’t see that coming.
‘I Know Who You Are’ is told from Aimee’s point of view, in the present day, with flashbacks thirty years previously to her childhood. The story is menacing and you experience everything Aimee feels.
Aimee is an unreliable protagonist because of the trauma she suffered in her past life, but she is easy to empathise, and I believed in her throughout the twists and turns of the story.
Abuse and control are the major themes of this story and shape Aimee into the person she is, preferring to act and assume a character rather than face the reality of her life.
Putting aside the suspense, mystery and plot twists, which are well-written, and have a powerful impact, there is also an ethos of sadness, loss and powerlessness that defines Aimee, and her story. It is this that resonates and makes her story believable.
Extract from: ‘I Know Who you Are’ – Alice Feeney
I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember
Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming
else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise
the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up
Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,
to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at
is written on the dressing-room door:
name, not his. I never changed it.
because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage
only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name
defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,
in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a
Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.
Someone else. A new
name for a new me. The me I became when
else was looking.
a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.
I think we broke us last night.
it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the
because they can.
He hurt me.
made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be
in order to fix them.
I hurt him back.
check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,
way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,
spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever
I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of
hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;
are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,
walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.
Something very bad happened last night.
tried so hard to pretend that it didn’t, struggled to rearrange
the memories, but I can still hear his hate-filled words, still, feel his
around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen
face wear before.
I can still fix this. I can fix us.
lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.
was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also
walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving
dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.
steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately
the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.
I did love him, I still do.
think it’s important to remember that. We weren’t always the
version of us that we became. Life remodels relationships like these reshapes the sand; eroding dunes of love, building banks of hate.
night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and
told him that I meant it this time.
I didn’t. Mean it.
climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio
steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,
the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my
edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,
face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before
me, acting has never been about attracting attention or
to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do
else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel
The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,
that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.
people just want to be somebody else. Acting is easy, it’s being
me that I find difficult. I throw up
before almost every interview
event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I
to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,
in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.
Nobody understands who I really am, except him.
husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My
is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled
start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I
never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my
tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which
kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing
you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or
it again yourself.
drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing
real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in
mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about
forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told
have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my
as though all the things they have seen made them swell
of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert
not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing
me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget
eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t
what she said about my performance.
was a review of my first film role last year. A part that changed
my life, and my husband’s, forever. It certainly changed our bank
but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound
– it took me away from him – and I think he needed
make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m
who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted
He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the
He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too
so tight that it hurt.
I think part of me liked it.
park on the street and allow my feet to lead me up the garden
path. I bought the Notting Hill townhouse because I thought it
fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But
is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve
felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in
way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of
and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the
out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.
let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,
I call, taking off my coat.
the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,
home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to
this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never
its own cage.
I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our
every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of
night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of
lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve
every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate
of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small
attached to them; there’s just one word:
is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.
want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.
want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I
to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before
started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the
I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.
retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on
coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere
his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either
or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and
a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see
but when I press the button again the phone demands Ben’s
passcode. I try and fail to guess several times until it locks me out
search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This
out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where
left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one
time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall
hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.
Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?
is the most destructive form of self-harm.
series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears:
‘I really am so very, very sorry about this,’ he says, in an oddly formal voice… They strike the side of a grain silo. They are travelling at seventy miles per hour.
A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash.
She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.
When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…
So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Vintage Publishing – Chatto & Windus in return for an honest review.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book. I like literary fiction because if written well, it explores ordinary lives and finds the extraordinary. Characters have to be realistic and complex for this to work.
This is a different type of literary fiction, the characters are not ordinary, but rich, hedonistic and seemingly living outside the moral code ordinary mortals abide by. There is also large sections of the story where the characters are mythical, and you are unsure whether this an alternative reality, a story, or a journey back in time. These characters mirror many of the contemporary players.
The main focus of the story is an abused child, powerless with no voice, and no one to protect her, from her father, and his immorality. Reading what happens to Angelica evokes a myriad of emotions; anger, disgust, and sadness the most prevalent. This story is worthwhile reading because it gives her voice, and shows as she matures she attempts to take her life back into her control. Outsiders so-called heroes profess to help her escape but they don’t, she is ultimately the strength in this story.
There is an adventure, suspense and great storytelling in ‘The Porpoise’, it perhaps helps, to have some knowledge of the older stories that are weaved into the contemporary tale, but I didn’t, and I was still intrigued and motivated, to see what happens next.
Just dive in and let the stories absorb you. If you try to understand everything in this book, you will spoil the storytelling experience. Looking for something different to read? This is for you.
Lily’s gone. Someone took her. Unless she was she never there…
A little girl has gone missing.
Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.
Has Nova’s abusive ex stolen his “little bunny” back for good?
At first, Officer Ellie James assumes this is a clear custody battle. Until she discovers that there are no pictures of the girl and her drawers are full of unused toys and brand new clothes that have never been worn…
Is Ellie searching for a missing child who doesn’t actually exist?
I received a copy of this book from Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve read quite a few of this author’s stories and they usually involve domestic settings, with a mystery, and cleverly built suspense. The stories are dark and the characters are believable, but usually have secrets, which lead to outcomes most readers wouldn’t foresee.
‘Without A Trace’ is creepy and sinister, told from three main, first-person points of view. The psychological thriller is characterised by an unreliable protagonist. This story has three and accompanied by a plot full of twists, and misinformation. It is difficult for the reader to decide who to believe. What is the truth? What is fiction? Are the answers somewhere in between?
Domestic abuse is the primary theme of this story, it is the reason Nova runs. The twisty plot is always coherent, you can see where this story is going, but you don’t know what you will find when you get there.
The short chapters, providing viewpoints from the three main female protagonists, work well with this suspense led story. The reader has to wait to see what happens next to the character, whilst they are given additional facts and motivations from the other characters.
Poignant and dark this story has important messages, and the final events and resolution of the mystery are realistic and memorable.
Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to the isolated island of Elliðaey to investigate and soon finds haunting similarities with a previous case – a young woman found murdered ten years ago in the equally desolate Westfjords.
Is there a patient killer stalking these barren outposts?
As Hulda navigates a sinister game constructed of smoke and mirrors she is convinced that no one is telling the truth, including those closest to her.
But who will crack first? And what secrets is the island hiding?
Haunting, suspenseful and as chilling as an Icelandic winter, The Island follows one woman’s journey to find the truth hidden in the darkest shadows, and shine a light on her own dark past.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Island’ is the second in the #HiddenIceland series of noir crime novels. I haven’t read the first book, but this reads well as a standalone. Hulda is a troubled detective and her personality and emotional pain, make her perfect for the ethos of this series. The story is sinister and suspenseful, but rather than relying on action scenes for its interest and impetus, it delves deep into the characters and their secrets to reveal the plot’s twists and turns.
Hulda is haunted by her past and elements of the crime resonate with her, making her more personally involved with the events at the island and its players than is wise.
The story flicks between different timelines, which demands concentration. You need to enjoy this deep, slow-paced, dark storytelling to get something from this book, but it is authentic and a good example of its genre.