Five of the Best (March 2011 to 2015)

5 Star Reads

As I have now been reviewing for over five years I thought I’d highlight my favourite book for each month from 2011 until 2015 to remind myself of the good ones. When we are talking five years ago, they must be good if I still remember them! Here is January’s and February’s top five, but onto March!

2011

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock was one of my first reads through the Amazon Vine program, a book that I couldn’t resist as it is set in Guernsey – I do wonder why there are no similar books set in Jersey, it seems unfair that being smaller they get all the good books written about them including a recent favourite The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Schaffer & Annie Burrows

The Book of Lies

Blurb

Life on the tiny island of Guernsey has just become a whole lot harder for fifteen-year-old Cat Rozier. She’s gone from model pupil to murderer, but she swears it’s not her fault. Apparently it’s all the fault of history.
A new arrival at Cat’s high school in 1984, the beautiful and instantly popular Nicolette inexplicably takes Cat under her wing. The two become inseparable–going to parties together, checking out boys, and drinking whatever liquor they can shoplift. But a perceived betrayal sends them spinning apart, and Nic responds with cruel, over-the-top retribution.
Cat’s recently deceased father, Emile, dedicated his adult life to uncovering the truth about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey–from Churchill’s abandonment of the island to the stories of those who resisted–in hopes of repairing the reputation of his older brother, Charlie. Through Emile’s letters and Charlie’s words–recorded on tapes before his own death– a “confession” takes shape, revealing the secrets deeply woven into the fabric of the island . . . and into the Rozier family story. Goodreads

2012 yr

Another Vine offering in March 2012 introduced me to Camilla Läckberg, an author who is now one of my favourites with the sixth in the Patrick Hedstrom and Erika Falck series; The Drowning

The Drowning

Christian Thydell’s dream has come true: his debut novel, The Mermaid, is published to rave reviews. So why is he as distant and unhappy as ever?
When crime writer Erica Falck, who discovered Christian’s talents, learns he has been receiving anonymous threats, she investigates not just the messages but also the author’s mysterious past…
Meanwhile, one of Christian’s closest friends is missing. Erica’s husband, Detective Patrik Hedström, has his worst suspicions confirmed as the mind-games aimed at Christian and those around him become a disturbing reality.
But, with the victims themselves concealing evidence, the investigation is going nowhere. Is their silence driven by fear or guilt? And what is the secret they would rather die to protect than live to see revealed? Amazon

2013yr

In March 2013 I found an another now must-read author, Louise Phillips who wowed me with Red Ribbons

Click on the book cover to read my review
Red Ribbons

Blurb

A SERIAL KILLER
When the body of a missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, her hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair, the hunt for her killer reaches epic proportion with the discovery of a second girl’s body 24 hours later.
THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGIST
Desperate to find the murderer, police call in criminal psychologist Kate Pearson, to get inside the mind of the serial killer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all begins to feel terrifyingly familiar as her own past threatens to cloud her investigations.
AN ACCUSED WOMAN
Ellie Brady has been institutionalised for 15 years, for the killing of her twelve-year-old daughter, Amy. After all this time, does Ellie hold the key to finding the killer of the Dublin schoolgirls?
What would you do if you were accused of killing your own daughter? What if those closest to you turned their back on you? And when everyone stopped listening, what next, when even you believe you’re guilty?
THE BAD MAN IS EVERYWHERE Goodreads

2014yr

March 2014 was a bumper month for 5 star reads but I chose Precious Thing by Colette McBeth for the sheer addictiveness that caused me to try and cook and read which was an epic fail!

Click on the book cover to read my review

Precious Thing
Blurb

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good?
Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever.
They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara’s life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes.
Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it. Goodreads

2015yr

The best book for March this year has to go to a book I’ve been waiting an age for; Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall which deals with a difficult subject in an intelligent and sensitive way, definitely a book to make you think!

Click on the book cover to read my review

Humber Boy B
Blurb

A blur in the sky, a brick no, a trainer, red falls to the water… There seems to be a scuffle… a hand grabbing at the dangling child. Then, with the awfulness of inevitability, the hanging child drops, gravity takes him. A child is killed after falling from the Humber Bridge. Despite fleeing the scene, two young brothers are found guilty and sent to prison. Upon their release they are granted one privilege only, their anonymity. Probation officer Cate Austin is responsible for Humber Boy B s reintegration into society. But the general public s anger is steadily growing, and those around her are wondering if the secret of his identity is one he actually deserves to keep. Cate s loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. She must ask herself if a child is capable of premeditated murder. Or is there a greater evil at play? Amazon

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First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 31)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

My post this week is from Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann which was published on 26 March 2015 by Pan Mcmillan.

The Ladies of the house

Blurb

On a hot July day, three elderly people are found dead in a dilapidated house in Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakable feeling that she is somehow to blame. How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house… NetGalley

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

It was a minor item in the newspaper, her last English newspaper, or the last one she would read on English soil. Just the kind of headline to draw her eye: Three Found Dead in North London, and then their names. Police were alerted after a woman collapsed outside her home in Primrose Hill and was found dead at the scene, despite all efforts to revive her. Two more bodies were found inside the house. Neighbours say there were no suspicious circumstances to report, except that they were all dead, all at once. Given the recent high temperatures around the country – such a dry, hot July, the barley blackened, the corn stunted, hens not laying right – early discovery of their bodies was a relief, for the smell of lingering death was not sweet, not a fairy-tale ending. ‘Unfortunately there was nothing to be done,’ said a police spokesman. Other heat-related fatalities had been reported and the hospitals were said to be overflowing.

Please note the quote is from a proof copy

Do you want to know more? Would you keep reading?

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Green and Pleasant Land – Judith Cutler

Crime Fiction 4*'s

Crime Fiction
4*’s

Twenty years ago a woman and her young son disappeared one cold and wet night in the midlands, on the back seat her youngest son, just a baby was dead. What happened to Natalie and Hadrian simply disappeared and the police investigation at the time soon ground to a halt. Retired Fran Harman and her partner Mark are asked to act on a consultancy basis to re-open the cold case. Eager to give their problem solving skills a work-out they agree and set off to work in the most unusual police building that rivals Downton Abbey.

It doesn’t take long for Fran and Mark to realise that they haven’t been given the full story, the man who commissioned them has been made redundant and the incumbent seems to be less than delighted to work with them. With a tiny team to work with there is more about the logistics of managing the investigation as they travel far and wide to visit those who worked on the case originally along with Natalie’s parents and others who provided witness statements. No sooner than they’ve started it appears that someone wants them gone, the question is who and why?

I soon realised that this is actually the sixth in the Fran Harman series so I’ve missed quite a lot of the back story, not that it seemed to matter. Fran and Mark are a likeable, friendly and competent pair of (former) officers even if some of the police force they have been sent to work with seem less than willing to be helpful. There is a lot of dialogue in Green and Pleasant land which took a while to get used to but came to the conclusion it is part of what makes the book feel as though it is a half-way house between a cosy mystery and a regular police procedural. There are no gory details in this book, anything too scary happens ‘off-screen’ and yet don’t be deceived, there is still plenty of complexity to the plot to hold the readers interest. It isn’t a pedestrian read either, there is plenty of action which especially towards the end had me willing everything to work out for the best. In some ways this book has a slightly ‘old-fashioned’ feel but it still manages to stay contemporary with details of Police Commissioner’s roles, recent ‘real-life’ investigations and use of modern technology.

I was impressed with Judith Cutler’s writing and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up more from this series to find out what happened to these characters before their retirement. If Green and Pleasant Land is anything to go by I’m sure there was an intriguing back story that you need the earlier volumes to discern.

I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for allowing me a to read a copy of this book for review purposes ahead of the publication date of 1 April 2015.

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Humber Boy B – Ruth Dugdall

Psychological Thriller 5*'s

Psychological Thriller
5*’s

Ruth Dugdall has used one of the most emotive subjects for the basis of this, her third novel featuring probation officer Cate Austin, that of children who kill. This book will stay with me for a long while because it is a book that makes you reflect on how the justice system manages these, thankfully rare, events.

The blurb tells us that a boy fell from the Humber Bridge and two brothers were convicted of being involved in his death but this book starts at a point eight years after the event, on the release day of Humber Boy B, now known as Ben following his change of identity, moved to an area far away from his home in Hull and unsurprisingly his struggle to adapt to a world that he hasn’t been part of since he was ten years old.

The story is told through multiple viewpoints from those who were there on the day of Noah’s death including Cheryl who was with her father Roger Palmer, a teacher who tirelessly tries to rescue the young boy. This structure can be confusing but the chapters are clearly labelled, some as The Day Of, others with the present day story with the narrator’s name and what unfolds is all the more chilling for the lack of melodrama on that fateful day. The story in the present time follows Ben on his release including a facebook page which has been set up by Noah’s mother, an anonymous and frequent commentator, Silent Friend, seems to want to help her to find Ben and the answers she longs for. Reading these posts was more unnerving despite their briefness, as they seemed so much like those comments that you’d rather not read on all types of social media.

This is an intelligent book that clearly defines the different roles involved in Ben’s new life. The police see Ben as a different boy to Cate who delves through his case files to gain an understanding of someone who needs help with everyday life as well as finding a job and needing protection from any lurking vigilantes who may work out who he really is. This is unsurprising as Ruth Dugdall worked in units not unlike the fictional young offenders units where Ben spent his sentence, and in her own words helped boys like Ben.

Humber Boy B is published by Legend Press who were kind enough to give me a proof copy for review purposes, it will be out for the kindle on 1 April 2015 but you can already buy a paperback copy.

Previous Books featuring Cate Austin

The Woman Before Me

The Sacrificial Man

Other books about child killers:

Non Fiction
As If – Blake Morrison

Fiction
The Child Who – Simon Lelic
The Wicked Girls – Alex Marwood
The Guilty One – Lisa Ballantyne

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Stacking The Shelves (March 28)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

A bumper week for me with the long awaited Peter James book landing on my doorstep; You Are Dead, featuring Roy Grace for his eleventh outing which will be published on 21 May 2015.

You Are Dead

Blurb

The last time that Jamie Ball heard from his fiancée, Logan Somerville, was a terrified call from her mobile. She was convinced that somebody was watching her in the dank underground car park beneath their block of flats in Brighton. He heard her scream, then the phone went dead. The police arrive at the scene immediately but Logan has already vanished. In another part of Brighton workmen digging up a park uncover the remains of a woman in her early twenties who has been dead for 30 years. The two events seem unconnected until yet another beautiful young woman with long brown hair goes missing and yet another body surfaces from the past. It seems that a serial killer is at large.
Meanwhile Logan’s uncle, an eminent London psychiatrist, has a visit from a strange new patient claiming to know where Logan is. Grace has the chilling realisation this man might hold the key to both the past and present crimes…. but is he telling the truth or is he just playing a sinister and sadistic game? Macmillan

From NetGalley I have a copy of The Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann picked because I read this fantastic review by A Life In Books.

The Ladies of the house

Blurb

On a hot July day, three elderly people are found dead in a dilapidated house in Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakable feeling that she is somehow to blame. How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house… NetGalley

I was also swayed by the tweets for new crime thriller novel published by Bookouture, the publishers that bought us the fantastic Silent Scream by Angela Marsons, so I have a copy of Don’t Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell I can honestly say I barely noticed publisher details before I started blogging and now I’m choosing books based on the publisher! How did that happen?

Don't Turn Around

Blurb

You don’t know him. But he knows you.
Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him.
As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked What what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.
When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.
What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.
Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …
With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves. NetGalley

And after thoroughly enjoying (if that is the right words) The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robbins, Margot Kinberg of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist pointed me in the direction of Dancing for the Hangman by Martin Edwards which is a fictionalised autobiographical account of the case of Dr Crippen who featured early on in Jane Robbins look at Bernard Spilsbury.

Dancing for the Hangman

Blurb

Martin Edwards dissects not only the facts but also the gaps and uncertainties in he historical record. This novel may bring us as close to the truth about Crippen as we are ever likely to get. Back Cover

So this weeks sees me adding more death and destruction to my shelves… What have you found to read this week? Please do share in the comments below

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A Place For Us – Harriet Evans

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s

Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

Winterfold is a beautiful old and rambling house, home to David and Martha Winter. In celebration of her eightieth birthday Martha sends out an invitation calling on her children to a party followed by a family lunch where she is set to reveal a secret.

This is a good old fashioned family saga, complete with eccentric characters and even a dog and enough secrets to keep the pages turning. David is a famous illustrator whose biggest ambition was to show the world the reality of London during the war, with the exposed houses and the broken men and women who lived in them, instead he has been producing cartoons about Wilbur (the dog) ever since his eldest daughter, Daisy was six.

Martha had been forced to leave her artistic ambitions behind as a young woman with three children, Daisy, Florence and Bill, to make Winterfold a home full of laughter and happiness, in sharp contrast to the couple’s early life.

As in all good family sagas over the years disagreements and conflicting priorities have meant that the family has fractured. Daisy has rarely been seen having left her daughter Cat to be bought up by David and Martha, Florence is an academic with a somewhat lonely life, leaving only Bill a doctor close by.

The story flowed along, with multiple viewpoints and time periods adding layers of detail and background to the secret that Martha feels she can no longer keep. With a splash of romance, more than a few misunderstandings and some darker moments there was plenty to keep me entertained. This book was originally published in four parts and whereas by the end of the first part I definitely wanted to keep reading, I’m not sure whether I’d have been as motivated to continue after part two. Maybe I prefer my books as one but I got the feeling that there was an artificial cliff-hanger inserted at this point which didn’t feel quite natural. Unusually with a book of this style although I was most interested in David’s backstory, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any of the other characters, although I left still wanting to understand Daisy more. Bill and Florence had their quirks and the younger generation had strong story-lines but Cat’s in particular didn’t really stand up to close inspection. That said I didn’t ever feel the story dragged, the pace was good (except for the forced ends to each of the parts) and there was plenty to ponder over as I put the book down to go to sleep.

I’m not sure this really bears comparison to Maeve Binchy’s books, hers do tend to be more heart-warming whereas this was a little grittier which is not necessarily a bad thing! I’d be more than a little tempted to pick up whatever Harriet Evans produces next but preferably if it was designed as one book and not four.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read this book in return for this honest review. This book was published in one volume in January 2015.

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The Ghost Fields – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction 5*'s

Crime Fiction
5*’s

In this the seventh in the series featuring Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, the historical find is the body of a pilot in a WWII plane. The hapless Barry West who came across the plane while clearing the ground for a new development of luxury homes. After recovering from the shock he calls the police and the excavation of the plane begins.

When Ruth is called by DI Harry Nelson she is convinced that the pilot hasn’t been there since the end of the war. That raises plenty of questions not least whose body is it, where has it been and who moved him to the plane and why? So quite a lot to discover and the place to start is the family who used to own the land the plane was found on; the Blackstock family have been in Norfolk for centuries.

There is plenty to get involved in this book from the array of personal and work relationships that have woven their way into the story. Judy is now having her second child with the druid Cathbad and although his role in this book is more muted than previously, it was good to see how life was treating him now that he lives in a house with his family. Ruth also gets to meet up with Frank who she met whilst filming the TV series in The Outcast Dead and of course her boss Phil is trying to muscle latest action. All the catching up with these well-known characters is part of the enjoyment of reading this series, but to get the full story arc, you do need to begin at the start of the series although it could be read as a stand-alone.

The mystery itself is surrounded by a colourful array of characters, whilst avoiding stereotypes, these are recognisable people even if some of them are not the kind that you would want to be friends with. As always Elly Griffiths gives us a good sense of place with the Norfolk landscape vividly described overlaid with a stifling hot summer which transported me right to the centre of the action. The storyline is also helped with some gentle humour so that despite the race to find a killer in the present as well as solving the mystery of the past this doesn’t feel gloomy.

Of course the link to the ghost fields in the title which is the name for the disused American air bases that were situated in the UK was of real interest to me as is the delving into the family history of the long established Blackstock family which results in some interesting revelations. This is an all-round good read, satisfying and comforting as well as informative. I’m already looking forward to the next book.

I’d like to thank the publishers Quercus for allowing me to read a copy of this book ahead of the publication date of 26 March 2015.

Previous books in the Elly Griffiths series

The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead

Standalone Novels

The Zig Zag Girl

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This Week In Books (March 25)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am currently reading Green and Pleasant Land by Judith Cutler

Green and Pleasant Land

Blurb

Retired police detective Fran Harman discovers that someone doesn’t like her digging up the past when she re-opens a 20-year-old cold case.
Twenty years ago, a car was found abandoned, with a desperately ill baby in the back. The child’s mother was never seen again. Newly-retired, ex-Chief Superintendent Fran Harman and her partner Mark have volunteered to help reinvestigate, and it soon becomes clear key witnesses aren’t telling them the whole truth… NetGalley

I have recently finished reading Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall which deals sensitively with the case of a child murderer

My review will follow shortly but you can read the opening paragraph in yesterday’s post.

Humber Boy B

Next I am planning to read The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

The Harbour Master

Blurb

Maverick cop Henk van der Pol is thinking about retirement when he finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour. His detective instincts take over, even though it’s not his case. But Henk’s bigger challenge is deciding who his friends are – not to mention a vicious street pimp who is threatening Henk’s own family. As his search for the killer of the woman in Amsterdam Harbour takes him into a corrupt world of politics and power, Henk finds himself facing some murky moral choices. Amazon

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments box below.

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

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Tuesday ~ First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 24)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

My post this week is from Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall where we meet the probation officer Cate Austin after her outings in The Woman Before Me and The Sacrificial Man.

Humber Boy B

Blurb

A child is killed after falling from the Humber Bridge. Despite fleeing the scene, two young brothers are found guilty and sent to prison. Upon their release they are granted one privilege only, their anonymity.
Probation officer Cate Austin is responsible for Humber Boy B’s reintegration into society. But the general public’s anger is steadily growing, and those around her are wondering if the
secret of his identity is one he actually deserves to keep. Cate’s loyalty is challenged when she begins to discover the truth of the crime. She must ask herself if a child is capable of premeditated murder. Or is there a greater evil at play? Amazon

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

July 2013

Down the grassy bank, under the shadow of the Humber Bridge, a teenager walks on her hands in the shallows, blonde hair hanging into the water so the tips are soaked dark. Flipping back up, she sees black specs of grit on her palms from the waterbed and tries to wipe them off along her upper thighs, newly fleshed out. Her swimsuit digs in at the top of her legs; it’s too small now but she hasn’t got any other and it’s a warm day and she longs to be in the water. Too warm, there must be a storm coming.

Please note the quote is from a proof copy, the book is due to be published on 1 April 2015

Do you want to know more? Would you keep reading?

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You – Caroline Kepnes

Psychological Thriller 4*'s

Psychological Thriller
4*’s

Joseph (Joe) Goldberg is a bookseller and manager of Mooney’s rare and new bookstore and he is a stalker, not that he would refer to himself in those terms, but be in no doubt, he is. The most recent object of his obsessive interest is Guinevere Beck who walked into his New York bookstore and peruses the books.

“You sneeze, loudly, and I imagine how loud you are when you climax.
“God bless you!” I call out. You giggle and holler back, you horny girl, “You too, buddy.” Buddy. You’re flirting and if I was the kind of asshole who Instagrams, I would photograph the F_K placard and filter the shit out of that baby and caption it: F-K yes, I found her.”

Having had a conversation about her book choices, Guinevere, or Beck as she likes to be called, gives Joe her name which he considers a cue to check out all her social media, visit her house and see if she has commented on him.

“But then I started to explore you and you don’t write about what really matters. You wouldn’t share me with your followers. Your online life is a variety show, so if anything, the fact that you didn’t put me in your stand-up act means that you covet me. Maybe even more than I realize…”

When Joe gets the opportunity to keep hold of her mobile phone he has full access to her life. Over the course of the story he intervenes when other people are taking up more of Beck’s time than necessary using all the tools at his disposal.

I love the way that books and pop culture are referenced in this novel and as a true sociopath Joe has both an inferiority complex whilst simultaneously thinking he is better than many of the people who cross his path, there is also plenty of wry humour to lighten this dark tale. I did find that I didn’t really care about Joe who was obsessed with Beck, or Beck who was obsessed with herself so whilst technically great it didn’t quite reach that point where I thought wow! The author did however manage to keep Joe’s character just the right side of obviously scary with some hints, although no detail, on what might have led him to this point. The main downside of this book was that it was eked out to the nth degree and so where the writing style kept my attention at the beginning it began to wear a bit thin in the last third where the opportunity to develop our knowledge of Beck was given but not taken

I enjoyed reading a book solely from the stalker’s perspective and I did enjoy the fine balance of humour to balance out the darkness although I did feel that we Beck’s character could have been given more depth.

Other recommended reading about stalking:

The Book of You – Claire Kendal

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