Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mother-In-Law – Sally Hepworth

Psychological Thriller
4*s

There is possibly no relationship more prone to problems than that between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law so perhaps the fact that the unexpected death of Diana, the matriarch of a wealthy family, brings that relationship under examination.

The story is set in the author’s home territory of Australia, near Melbourne although she has lived around the world. Diana is a woman who expects a lot from her two children Oliver and Antoinette, not least that they don’t depend on their parents for money to fund their adult lives. This is unsurprising since Diana’s work is with women’s health, specifically that of migrants who have travelled across the world with nothing to secure their futures and are pregnant in their new home and in need of support. The lives of her two children who have been given every advantage perhaps don’t qualify for the same level of support.

On the whole I found this an intriguing read, more women’s fiction perhaps than genuine mystery although how Diana died is the central plot. We learn about Lucy, Oliver’s wife and the way her relationship with Diana was forged through the past sections of the novel, the present sections are relating to the investigation into Diana’s death and the reactions of those who were part of her life at the time. I felt that one of the book’s biggest strengths is that it illustrates how the early relationship between Lucy and Diana grew around the early misunderstandings and resentments between the pair. The holding onto stories that illustrate a character trait are huge in any family where harmony is hard to come by, and the story of the necklace lent to Lucy on her wedding day symbolises how it is very hard to switch onto the right foot once something has become a matter of a grudge in the form of a tale held up for examination at key points of stress.

As a reader my point of view on all the characters also matured as we read more about the past with the author being brave enough to challenge some conventional wisdom through using one or more of her characters as a mouthpiece. It is no secret that I’m fond of books that make me challenge my own views and it is easy to think that there is no place in commercial fiction for that kind of improvement; I disagree and so it would seem does Sally Hepworth. Overall though we are lucky enough to have an author who understands that her task is to entertain the readers, and that is done in spades. I said earlier that this struck me perhaps more as women’s fiction than a thriller but, the author does keep the suspense alive until the end. I definitely found this to be quite an addictive read as I needed to know whether my suspicions were correct and although perhaps some of the lesser characters could have been a little bit more rounded, the central ones will probably stay with me for quite some time.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read a copy of The Mother-In-Law; this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author Sally Hepworth for a thoroughly entertaining read.

First Published UK: 23 April 2019
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

No Way Out – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Having been blown away with the quality of the first two books featuring DI Adam Fawley I had high expectations of this, the third in this series set in Oxford. The expectations were completely met in this topical thriller.

The crime this time is arson, a particularly brutal means of killing and in this the victims appear to be a young boy Zachary Esmond who has been killed in his home in North Oxford. His elder brother Matty is desperately ill in hospital and their academic father and mother are nowhere to be found. Family annihilation is suspected but only time will tell if the facts fit the theory. First job is to find Michael Esmond and find out if he has deliberately sought to wipe his family off the earth and that is Adam Fawley’s job.

I particularly enjoy the style of Cara Hunter’s writing. All her crime fiction books have been pacey with the main story told in the first person present tense while the reader is treated to news extracts and on-line comments at regular intervals throughout. In this book we are provided with the storyline on what led to the fire, a story covering the best part of a year. The investigation is rapid and a master in police procedural while the on-line excerpts keep the storyline feeling exceptionally current given how most of us digest the news these days and I enjoy having a flavour of the crime being investigated alongside some more generic local news from the Oxford area.

The plotting was, as always, superb. The author manages to provide the reader with a whole host of red herrings without giving this reader the feeling that it is simply a complex puzzle to be solved. I need to feel the potential suspects are there because that’s how the investigation has unfolded rather than they are being conjured up just for the story’s sake.

One of the things I enjoy about this police procedural series is that the team get along with each other. There is little in the way of politics and they provide the reader with a solid team that although aren’t devoid of personality, this isn’t the defining part of the story. I will admit I often like the forays into personal lives of our detectives but I have to admire those writers who manage to keep the investigation itself in the frame through any personal ups and downs the team may encounter. Cara Hunter’s writing falls into the latter camp.

Of course in crime fiction it isn’t just the detectives that need to keep you entertained, we also need to feel something for the victims, the potential perpetrators and all the witnesses that we meet along the way. Cara Hunter has a real knack for bringing the whole cast together with a lightness of touch that certainly kept me turning the pages as the book worked its way towards an accomplished finale.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read a copy of No Way Out which was an enormous honour. I’ve already put the fourth in the series (due out in December 2019) onto my wishlist.

Previous Books in the DI Fawley Series
Close to Home
In the Dark

First Published UK: 22 March 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Uk
No of Pages: 367
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Guilty Party – Mel McGrath

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I am a complete sucker for a book featuring a good moral dilemma and The Guilty Party fits the bill completely! The question is, how guilty are you if you witness a crime but do nothing? One of the things that appeals about these types of books is that it makes me think – not only what would I do but also whether or not the actions of the characters reflect society.

A group of four university friends go to a music festival, in the spirit of keeping their friendship alive into their thirties. They are totally wrapped up in their own lives. When they leave the music behind they witness a man following a woman down a dark alley way – they try to look the other way but it appears a violent sexual assault takes place. The four do nothing. Having met them none of them seem particularly nice people but I did find it shocking that out of the four only Cassie seemed to feel any overt guilt when a body is found, drowned. The suspicion being this was the victim of the crime they witnessed. It is interesting that the characters are youngish but not ‘young’ and so this links with my wondering if this does in fact reflect the actions of a generation, or has the author created a pessimistic viewpoint.

The book is set fairly soon after the main event and each of the four characters reveal more about themselves, and their friendship. I found that these revelations about the characters to be if anything more disturbing than their lack of compassion for a fellow human. I was left feeling that the ties that bind the four together should have been severed years before, or better still not allowed to flourish in the first place.

The plotting was great as was the characterisation although with so many unpleasant characters, particularly of a ‘type’ meant that I was perhaps less engaged than I would normally be whilst reading. The dilemma at the book’s heart had me thinking though and although this certainly isn’t the first book that has explored this subject matter I felt the back story to the group of friends added an extra dimension.

So while this was a frankly uncomfortable read at times, I absolutely needed to find out more and that after all is the mark of a good writer.

I’d was incredibly fortunate in that HQ for allowed me to read a copy of The Guilty Party and this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author, for an intriguing and thought-provoking read.

First Published UK: 7 March 2019
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Neighbour – Fiona Cummins

Crime Fiction
4*s

The Neighbour is one creepy novel that even though it confused, and I’ll be honest frustrated me at first, kept me gripped so that I had to keep on reading until I was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle in their place.

The Lockwood family move into their new house 25 The Avenue in Essex in the woodland behind the house a body has been discovered, the fifth in recent times. Not the best omen for a new house I think we can all agree? Garrick and Olivia and their two children have moved into the house due to some difficulties of their own so they have no option but to stick it out through the media interest and local speculation. Garrick’s conviction that the murderer will soon be found soon seems to feel a bit optimistic to say the least.

The bodies themselves have been found with painted faces and the media have named the killer the dollmaker, something that the police are keen to discourage, especially as there is a toymaker living in the area. With everyone under suspicion and the killer close at hand the links between the victims has to be made in order to work out who it is.

I have to hand it to Fiona Cummins because she won me over. The initial total confusion I felt at the different time lines and multiple voices soon evened out into a more cohesive plot, but I did need to stick with it.

Fortunately for the reader, the police presence is led by DCI Clive Mackie, and the team includes the likeable detective, Wildeve Stanton. She is the one who I bonded with as she worked tirelessly hunting the murderer even though she is grieving after a very recent loss. For once the detective’s personal problems isn’t code for any flaky activity, Wildeve is a sensible woman not given to flights of fancy or bending the rules out of shape. With the DCI facing being pulled from the investigation the tension in the police joins that of the inhabitants of the Avenue.

The setting is very atmospheric, the story did give me the creeps which is fairly unusual for me – it takes a lot to scare me but the thought of Olivia living in amongst all of this suspicion not only about the murderer but within her own house too. With different secrets hiding behind all the doors within the Avenue it seems like everyone has something to hide, something to lose and lies to tell. This just served to make the book feel all the more claustrophobic.

I have to admire Fiona Cummins skill in both plotting such a complex thriller. That combined with the skilful writing made the reading of the book a fairly edgy experience.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read an ARC of The Neighbour which was published on 4 April 2019.

First Published UK: 4 April 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Cruel Acts – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Maeve Kerrigan is my kind of protagonist and so I was absolutely thrilled to see that she was back and I’m pleased to say my high levels of anticipation were fully met.

When double murderer Leo Stone is freed because of irregularities with the jury process. Superintendent Godley tasks Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent to re-examine the evidence, and quickly, to ensure that the case against him is absolutely watertight – the thought of such a dangerous man being allowed to roam free is completely repellent to the hardworking officers. Maeve is quick to alight on another potential victim of Leo Stone but before she has time to devote too much attention in that direction there is another killing similar to those Leo Stone was convicted of. Could it be that the team are investigating a miscarriage of justice after all?

I love this series so much because in part, the characterisation is superb. Maeve is a strong, tenacious and capable officer who knows her own mind and that alone is very appealing. The fact that she is a bit standoffish with her colleagues only serves to endear her to me even more as she is often quietly funny in her dealings with them. But her role is backed up by a whole host of old friends from the previous books. I’m particularly enjoying watching Maeve’s slightly tense relationship with the younger officer Georgia while slipping into a slightly easier relationship with Josh in this episode. Although we have some of the back story of Maeve’s life outside the police this perhaps doesn’t have as much room in this episode as it has done so previously, but fear not there is enough to keep things interesting…

It doesn’t matter how good the characters are in crime fiction if there isn’t a jolly good mystery to be solved and once again Jane Casey far from disappoints. This is a fairly complex investigation given that we know who the key suspect is, the time-line, the forensics and pretty much everything in between, or do we? This is the beauty of the plotting one bit of information can turn everything on its head and unfortunately there are multiple strands to be teased out and worked individually before the team can be certain what happened to the poor women that crossed the path of a murderer.

With engaging writing to finish the triad for the pinnacle of success in crime fiction, Jane Casey reminded me she really is one of the best of the new generation. While the storyline featuring serial killers are nothing new, she manages to keep it feeling fresh with her sharp observational writing that all too easily conjures up the desperate need to catch a killer that must infiltrate such a major investigation in real life.

A most satisfactory read finishing with a solid resolution – I do hope Maeve is back soon.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of Cruel Acts ahead of publication on 18 April 2019.

The Maeve Kerrigan Series in Order

The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl
The Stranger You Know
The Kill
After The Fire
Let the Dead Speak

First Published UK: 18 April 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Five Star Reads

Gone in the Night – Mary-Jane Riley #BlogTour #BookReview

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s


Blurb

Some secrets are deadly…

When the victim of a car crash begs journalist Alex Devlin for help before disappearing without trace, Alex finds herself caught up in a mystery that won’t let her go.

Determined to find the missing man, she is soon investigating a conspiracy that threatens some of the most vulnerable members of society.

But will Alex be prepared to put her own life on the line to help those who can’t help themselves?

My Review

This is the fourth book in the Alex Devlin series, and let me tell you Alex Devlin is a character you would want on your side should you really want the truth. A little unusually for a crime fiction series, Alex is a journalist and someone who has investigated the painful truth about the deaths of her niece and nephew.  This fact means the reader can be sure that nobody nor anything will stop her pursuing the leads to find the truth…

This is just as well because when Alex is given a proposal for a story she believes it is going to be relatively straightforward, oh Alex, how wrong can you be? Cora’s brother Rick has gone missing and she believes the fact that he slept rough will result in a lack of interest by the police. Alex was already casting her net in search of a story to write for the local East Anglian paper, and when she finds out that more of the homeless appear to have disappeared she follows the trail.

This is a bang-on contemporary story which avoids the pitfalls that I find some author’s fall into . This storyline doesn’t feel forced, I didn’t ever feel that the issue came first and then repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. Nevertheless the book necessarily shines a light on those members of society that are often invisible because we do not wish to see them. Fortunately Mary-Jane Riley does what all good authors do, she made me want to find out the truth alongside Alex (and others who she persuades to assist her) so that I became invested in the storyline too.

One of the reasons why I fell in love with this series, is the characters; Alex Devlin has the qualities I admire but this is an author who is able to create both obvious baddies and villains of the more subtle variety too. Boney in this book was one of the obvious variety but believably so – I know we are always told that criminals don’t have their trade stamped across their forehead but that doesn’t mean that there are those out there that most of us would instinctively give a wide berth to! This creation of a wide range of characters right across the spectrum and ensuring a large percentage have depth means that the whole book is given a backdrop of realism to play out the at times most gripping of scenes.

If you haven’t read any of the Alex Devlin series, I do urge you to start at the beginning because although each one will read most satisfactorily as a standalone, I know you will want more and all good bibliophile’s know that you really should read a series in order if you are going to read them all!

Previous Books in the Alex Devlin Crime Fiction Series

The Bad Things
After She Fell
Dark Waters

I want to finish by stating just how delighted I was to be asked to take part in this blog tour; a huge thank you Mary-Jane for ensuring I was included despite my absence from the blogosphere and of course to Dampebbles for putting me at the end of the tour as requested so that I could fit in a wedding and read the book and remember how to write a review…

First Published UK: 3 May 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 330
Genre: Crime FictionSeries
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Uncategorized

An Update

Well it has been quite some time since I last posted and this is why…

 

Yes, I finally got married on 27 April 2019 and this was followed up by a blissful trip to Paris.

The wedding itself had a bookish theme, with flowers made out of old book pages which were taken by the guests as keepsakes – the teacups were actually my grandmother’s, left to me on her death in 1995 so I was delighted to work them into the decorations.


 

So in short now that project is over I should now have time to get back to reading again – I discovered you can’t be a book blogger when you aren’t actually reading much at all. Of course I have read during my absence and so I will be sharing reviews of those books while I pick up the reins to blogging and of course connecting with all my blogging friends; I have a feeling that I’m going to want to read all the books I’ve missed during my break.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 5)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Fiona Cummins has a new book out, it’s due to be published at the beginning of April and since so far I’ve not got around to reading this feted author’s first two books, I was determined not to miss out in 2019.

 

 

 

Blurb

FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . .

And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.

On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune. The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.

After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Now 

Every killing has a taste of its own. I expect you didn’t know that. Young women are sweetened with hope, less astringent than their older selves, who reek of experience, bitter as sorrel leaves.

The boys – yes, they remain boys until they have earned the right to be called me – are seasoned with bravado, but lack piquancy. As life ebbs away from them, they taste of metal and shyness and tears.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well  I think when you take away the killing part of that sentence, it makes a lot of sense so I’m sure it would with a murder too. What do you think?

 Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Before She Knew Him – Peter Swanson

Crime Fiction
4*s

Often us booklovers are drawn to compare notes on the kinds of characters we like with broadly speaking divisions, those characters we like, we’d be happy to have them as friends, and those that you actively dislike. I’ve, in my more contemplative moments wondered why I am so happy to read about unlikeable characters, and I’ve decided that the authors who create these to populate their books tend to have other dynamics going on that make the likeableness of the character a bonus rather than a hinderance.

In Before She Knew Him there are unlikeable characters and to make things even harder the author has created a world, like he has in his previous novels, that is unlikely to exist but just likely enough to make the fiction only too believable.

Hen (short for Henrietta) Mazur and her husband Lloyd have recently moved house to a small suburb in Boston. They love their new house, they’ve left behind what appears to have been a few bad memories and Hen is now following her artistic path as an illustrator in the new neighbourhood. Their neighbours Mira and Matthew invite them for a dinner party. Hen, who has suffered with her mental health isn’t keen but Lloyd wants them to get out and mix. So they go and in one of those weird coincidences that occur in real life as well as novels, Hen makes a connection between Matthew and a victim of a murder who lived close to them in their previous home. What are the chances?

The book then takes on what could be a farcical turn, but doesn’t quite. Hen convinced that Matthew is in fact hiding some huge dark secret does what anyone would do in such a situation. Yes, she chooses to stalk her neighbour, whilst of course keeping this a secret from her husband, who is likely to worry far too much that she needs to go back to the doctor and have her medication altered.

In between this we see things from Matthew’s point of view. The only thing he is hiding from his wife is the visits his brother Richard makes to the house when Mira is out of town working. Mira has to travel a great deal for her work and Richard visits in her absence because she actively dislikes him – not surprisingly as we read excerpts from his thoughts, I’m sure most readers would decide to put him on the ‘not a friend pile!’

So all in all, exactly what you’d expect from a book by Peter Swanson. A bunch of weird characters, some less likeable than others followed by a somewhat bizarre scenario which is all rescued by some brash actions putting various people in danger of being discovered, followed and perhaps, given this is crime fiction, killed! And it was brilliantly pulled off. I didn’t want to put the book down, so engaged was I with what in the hands of a lesser writer would easily have been thrown against the ‘don’t be ridiculous’ wall.

I’d like to thank the publishers Faber and Faber who allowed me to read the experience that Before She Knew Him which will be published on 5 March 2019.

First Published UK: 5 March 2019
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Peter Swanson

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
The Kind Worth Killing
Her Every Fear
All the Beautiful Lies

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Secretary – Renée Knight

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I was a huge fan of Renée Knight’s debut novel Disclaimer and so I had that inevitable mixture of excitement and conscious lowering of expectations as I approached this, the author’s second book. I didn’t need to have a moment of worry, I loved it.

This is a claustrophobic book which is mainly set within the mind of the titular secretary, Christina Butcher. Christina was employed by Mina Appleton as a secretary, almost on a whim, back in the day before personal assistants became de rigour, but essentially that is exactly what Christina was. She wasn’t just employed to help Mina with the family business, a supermarket, she was there to interview the nannies for her children, by the gifts for everyone and anyone, and be on call day and night to do Mina’s bidding.

You might imagine that Christina is a single woman free to devote her time and energy to her role for eighteen years but not so, as Christina tells us her story, we find that she was happily married with a young daughter.

This is exactly the type of psychological thriller I most enjoy, it isn’t a fast moving sweeping and swooping novel, instead it is a study of a relationship albeit one between two women in a business environment, just think given the nature of the work, how many dynamite pieces of information both personal and work-related that Christina has picked up over the years. We also get to see just what Christina has given, and sacrificed, in order to appease her whip-cracking boss.

Neither woman is particularly likeable, if you need to like at least one of the lead characters you probably won’t enjoy this book quite as much as I did. However, both came across as real, in fact, one of the aspects I particularly appreciated was how realistic this book felt. As I mentioned Mina is in the supermarket business and this strand of the storyline isn’t glossed over, we hear and witness some meetings with farmers, and we can easily compare the ethics with those we have read about with the national supermarkets. All interesting and giving every appearance as being researched and not just plonked into the book as a pet cause.

As the book develops there are several minor storylines featuring more sympathetic characters and these build towards what is an absolutely explosive ending. So although the book is what could be called a slow burn, for me it didn’t feel long enough – I was left knowing that we’d exhausted every avenue so I wasn’t left longing for me from that perspective, but having been so caught up within the storyline I was sad to say goodbye.

I’m sure the ending will divide readers, and for this reason alone I would definitely recommend The Secretary as a book club read, but I wasn’t disappointed by it as I enjoyed the sentiment and felt it was entirely in keeping with all that came before.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of The Secretary before it is published today, 21 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and to Renée Knight for a completely addictive read.

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US