This is Paula Daly’s debut novel, and boy is this one disturbing tale about a missing child which I had on my TBR for sometime before I read her second novel Keep Your Friends Close. Having had a taste of the author’s superb writing I dusted off this one and settled down to immerse myself in an extreme domestic drama.
Linda Castillo is your typical harassed mother, juggling children, work and along with the other day to day chores that need to be attended to. When Linda’s daughter Sally is ill and off school, Linda forgets to tell Kate Riverty that her daughter Lucinda won’t be able to stay over as planned. With the sleepover cancelled without warning the consequences are high because Lucinda goes missing and no-one realises until she doesn’t turn up at school the next day.
This is a heart-stopping start to what is one of the most accomplished of all the psychological thrillers I have read this year. What makes it so powerful is that it is only too believable. Linda is a well-rounded, flawed, but only in the way we all are, mother. Kate on the other-hand is a highly organised mother who can’t understand the laxity shown by lesser mortals after all she has two high-achieving children, she is involved on school committees and throws dinner parties for the worthy and the good; Kate was only invited once and soon dismissed when it became clear that she didn’t belong.
The search is led by DC Joanne Aspinall who is a highly likeable and practical woman, someone who knows what life is all about and her interactions with all the other characters were some of my favourite parts. Meanwhile with the sting of being publicly blamed for Lucinda’s disappearance, and fearing even her husband blames her, Kate starts her own investigation determined to help find out what happened to Lucinda. The tale is interspersed with some truly creepy thoughts from a man who is interested in young girls while the main narrative is shared between DC Aspinall and Kate Riverty.
This is one of those books I really couldn’t put down, so it was lucky I was lying by a pool with the only interruptions coming in the form of a new drink being delivered. Even better the ending wasn’t a disappointment which is always a danger after such a terrific build-up.
So to sum up, a devastatingly good plot, perfect timing to create the upmost tensions and characters that you believe in, results a book that no one who loves a good psychological thriller should miss.
I thoroughly recommend this and Paula Daly’s second novel Keep Your Friends Close if you like books that make you question what you would do in the same situation.
Here is an author that can start her latest book with a seemingly mundane argument, one of the kind that many married couples have, and yet for all its familiarity, I was instantly pulled into the story. Jane and Leon Campbell are off to his mother’s to celebrate his birthday. Both are tetchy; Leon because he’d rather spend his birthday doing what he wants to do and Jane because having to visit his mother for his birthday is somehow her fault. Put two young children, a car journey and a declined manuscript, her sixth, into the mix and it is easy to get the picture. So far so predictable as is the opposite neighbour’s untimely moan about an ongoing neighbourhood niggle. Jane is relieved when she can return to the house to pick up the forgotten beer while the disagreement rumbles on taking a deep breath before returning to the car. By the time she returns, this is no longer a normal day, it is one of the worst days of their lives.
I won’t say anything further about the plot because all of the above happens upfront, what comes next is thrilling, baffling and at times almost incomprehensible. How can such devastation occur out of the blue. To Jane, to Leon, to his brilliantly portrayed mother and sister, and to his two children. Life will never be quite the same again. Paula Daly has painted her supporting cast in equally bright characters from the Police who visit and tries and fails to be comforting, to the circle of friends that are most supportive but balk at revealing the secrets that they know Leon has concealed from Jane. Their actions, dialogue and interactions are all totally believable.
If all the excitement about what happens to Leon, why the police are involved, what they find and plenty more ‘whats’ besides, isn’t enough it should be noted that the couple are authors; Leon Campbell a well-known crime thriller writer while Jane is an aspiring women’s fiction. Leon has been very supportive of Jane in her quest to be published even if he does use his writing to get out of the many mundane jobs that are part and parcel of parenthood. Readers will be pleased to know that the fact he is an author is woven throughout the plot and what us readers love more than anything, is reading about books. So it’s a winner all around.
All I can say is that Paula Daly has done it again, by which I mean take an everyday event and transform it into the most gripping of reads. I will confess, despite having visitors this book was barely out of reach and I snatched it up at each and every opportunity. I anticipated another pure read of entertainment, and I got that in spades, but below the fast-paced thrills there is also a strong vein of truth of not just the emotional consequences of serious injury but the ongoing change to the person and those who are part of their lives.
Open Your Eyes is a psychological thriller that stands out from the crowd, perhaps because the characters are far from dislikeable, but you will have to be on the ball to work out the truth of the seemingly unsolvable puzzle. Even better I let out a pleased and satisfied sigh at the ending.
I’d like to thank the publisher Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Open Your Eyes prior to publication on 26 July 2018, and to Paula Daly for the rollercoaster ride.
First Published UK: 26 July 2018
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US
When you pick up one of Sophie Hannah’s books, I’ve learnt it is best to expect the unexpected and she’s done it again, I was gripped by the mystery of the seven year old’s disappearance seven years ago, a disappearance that had gripped America from the start.
As to be expected from this hugely talented author we have characters that are so memorable you’ll want to send them a Christmas card, or at perhaps cross them off the list, because, some of them aren’t very nice at all!
Cara Burrows has booked herself into a five star hotel in Arizona, miles from her husband and two teenage children, simply leaving a note to tell them she will be back on 24 October. It takes a while for the reader to understand how this seemingly nice woman could take such an action, or perhaps more importantly why. Patience is key, Sophie Hannah starts with a mystery which demands an answer but she makes her readers wait for them, but fear not, the answers are all given in good time. Cara arrives at Swallowtail resort late at night and is booked in by the receptionist. She makes her way to the room, only to find that it is already occupied by a father and daughter who she disturbs from their sleep. The receptionist is deeply apologetic and finds her a new room.
Staying at the hotel at the same time as Cara is an elderly lady who has ‘seen’ Melody at the resort each time she has stayed there. Melody was a girl who was all over the news and excerpts from talk shows before the culprits were arrested are included in the novel. This platform is useful for discussing the very different ways that crimes are handled by the media in the UK and the US. In the US the talk show host Bonnie Juror is able to shout her beliefs from her chat show without threat of perverting the course of justice, something that simply would never happen in the UK, although of course it doesn’t stop individuals speculating when we see the sadly all too familiar media statements from grieving families.
With Cara needing a bit of displacement activity she makes a very reserved British bond with two fellow sun lounger inhabitants, a mother and daughter both of whom had me in stitches with their brilliant one-liners with the differences in approach between the two nations accurately portrayed. Anyway between them they educate Cara on the full Melody story and encourage her growing suspicion that Melody is still alive and on the resort.
Taken in parts this story is completely unbelievable but I really didn’t mind, the journey was so entertaining, the commentary that underlines the storyline on a number of different subjects is true which allowed me to believe in the right circumstances with a good handful of coincidences thrown in that this could be true…
This is the perfect summer read although if you are staying in a less than palatial resort you may experience some envy, with brilliant characters, each one is so superbly drawn (and coloured in) with a fair bit of drama to ensure that a soothing massage I required by the time you turn that brilliant last page.
Thank you to the publishers Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read this book ahead of publication on 24 August 2017 – this unbiased review is my thanks to them.
First Published UK: 24 August 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US
Culver Valley Series 1. Little Face
2. Hurting Distance
3. The Point of Rescue
4. The Other Half Lives
5. A Room Swept White
6. Lasting Damage
7. A Kind of Cruel
8. The Carrier 9. The Telling Error
10. The Narrow Bed
Genealogical mysteries are a rarity and so the chances are that you haven’t tried one, if not then Steve Robinson is the author to go to. This is the fifth in a series of books where the protagonist Jefferson Tayte (or JT) uses historical records to uncover secrets from the past. Often these forays into long forgotten events get him into trouble. But JT has his own genealogical mystery, he was adopted as a child and has no clue who his own ancestors are.
In Kindred JT finally has a clue, and a friend, Professor Jean Summer, to accompany him on his trip which is to Munich. Clutching a photo of the woman he believes may be his mother he is off to find out more about the building the woman in the photo is pictured against. It doesn’t take long for him to discover that this building belongs to Johann Langer an old and very ill man. Granted an interview with the man in hospital Langer tells the pair the beginning of the story of his friendship with Volker Strobel during their boyhood in Hitler’s Youth.
I’m not going to relay the whole story, you really should read this for yourself, but it’s told through Langer’s eyes over a number of years taking the two boys to adulthood, and it is just so very realistic, it is almost painful. This story of two boy’s war is set against JT’s struggle to find out the ending to the tale, not an easy task as it becomes very clear that someone doesn’t want them to know the truth – nor are they subtle in the way they give their warnings. With JT getting himself into dangerous situations having read the previous episodes I knew only too well how important finding out the truth is but, JT, you really do need to be a little more careful whose cage you rattle!
I don’t know if I have the right words to convey just how exceptional this book is; the storytelling was perfect, maintaining the tension with legitimate delays while documents were sought and meetings arranged but not to the point where it felt like a device. The friendship between JT and the Professor was well-drawn, with convincing scenes between the pair, dinners eaten, although perhaps less food than our protagonist would wish, and realistic exchanges of opinion – I like this pair working together. Obviously because of the time it was set and their background at times this story meets a historical reality that is hard to face, this isn’t a book that shies away from the reality of the war, including the concentration camps. At these times the absolute authenticity of this book felt very raw because I never doubted the truism that it portrayed.
This is by far the best of the entire series although I got into that awful quandary, especially towards the end, where I wanted to find out what happened but desperately didn’t want the book to come to an end. Thank you Steve Robinson for an absolutely wonderful story, set in both time and place to perfection.
I now need to say a huge thank you to the publishers Thomas and Mercer who allowed me to read a proof copy of Kindred ahead of the publication date of 12 April 2016, this review is my thank you to them.
If you haven’t read any of this series but you like historical fiction with a difference here are the books in order – I strongly suggest you start at the beginning although each one, including this latest one can easily be read as a stand-alone.
In The Blood Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.
In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.
To The Grave A curiously dated child’s suitcase arrives, unannounced and unexplained, in a modern-day Washington suburb. A week later, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is sitting in an English hotel room, staring at the wrong end of a loaded gun.
In his latest journey into the past, Tayte lands in wartime Leicestershire, England. The genealogist had hoped simply to reunite his client with the birth mother she had never met, having no idea she had been adopted. Instead, he uncovers the tale of a young girl and an American serviceman from the US 82nd Airborne, and a stolen wartime love affair that went tragically wrong.
The Last Queen of England While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte’s old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.
What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?
As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the true, royal bloodline, is on the loose…as is a Machiavellian heir-hunter who senses that the latest round of murder, kidnapping, and scandal represents an unmissable business opportunity.
On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.
When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.
Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.
This is a mystery set very firmly in Scotland with realistic characterisation and rather more unexpectedly, an examination of how family relationships evolve over time.
Isla McTeer is devastated when she is called to identify the body of her twin brother, Dougie who has pulled from the Tyne River in Glasgow. Dougie, a former marine had returned to Edinburgh following Isla’s separation from her husband and in turn became an even larger part of her life, even working for a different branch of the same company; Isla works in insurance and Dougie was a Private Investigator. After the initial shock subsides Isla starts to question why Dougie had gone to Glasgow and this is the question no one can answer.
Isla’s father comes to stay with Isla for the funeral while her younger sister Marie makes a flying visit from Norway, unable to leave her young children for long. When Marie starts pushing to sell Dougie’s house his ex-wife Tania gives Isla a piece of information about his trip to Glasgow that she can’t forget. Isla raises concerns about Dougie’s death but the police are adamant that it was an accident, he simply fell into the river while drunk.
I liked the format of this book with the current action, and there is plenty of this, is interspersed with episodes from Dougie’s life as remembered by his twin in the form of a conversation with him. These are effective in building a picture of the family as well as being a realistic tool in illustrating Isla’s grief as she lives with the loss of her brother. She had depended on him so much during her life and now she wants to return the favour by finding out exactly what happened on the night he drowned.
There is quite a lot crammed into this book and not all the stories are followed through to a neat conclusion so if you are a reader that likes everything tied up in a big bow, this isn’t the book for you, although neither is this a completely open ending, there are answers, just not to everything.
For me the psychological look at families as a whole, and not as you’d imagine specifically twins, was an interesting twist. Our interaction with our siblings and parents changes over the years but frequently these references are simplified into the children taking on the role of parents as the later age, but in Now That You’re Gone the context is much wider providing a really satisfying read on many levels.
I am very grateful to the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, who provided me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. Now That You’re Gone was published on 5 June 2014
Previous Books by Julie Corbin
Tell Me No Secrets
You can bury the past but it never dies …Her name was Rose and she was nine years old when she died. I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I’m going to tell my story as it is and as it was. This isn’t the beginning but it’s a good place to start …Grace has lived in the same village on the east coast of Scotland for almost her entire life. Safe and secure, it is the perfect place for her and her husband Paul to bring up their twin girls. And so, despite having to contend with the trials and tribulations of her adolescent daughters and the increasing onset of Alzheimer’s in her beloved father-in-law, Grace feels that, finally, life is good. Until, that is, a phone call from her old best friend, a woman she hasn’t seen in years – and for good reason – threatens to take away everything she holds dear. Grace is about to discover that some secrets can’t remain buried forever … Amazon
This was one of the first books I bought on kindle and awarded it five stars and instantly purchased her next book,
Where the Truth Lies
Claire’s husband has been keeping secrets. About the whereabouts of the witness to the murder trial he’s prosecuting . And about the letters he’s been getting, threatening to kill their three-year old, unless he tells the blackmailer where the witness is hiding. With their daughter’s life at stake, it is left to Claire to untangle the web of lies and half-truths and find out just who might be responsible. And to stop them. Before it’s too late. Amazon
This was followed up by an equally accomplished book in
Every Vow You Break
When her teenage son Robbie’s drink is spiked, Olivia Somers is devastated. She has spent her adult life trying to protect people and keep them safe – not only as a mother, but also in her chosen profession as a doctor. So she tries to put it down to a horrible accident, in spite of the evidence suggesting malicious intent, and simply hopes no-one tries to endanger those she loves again. But someone from the past is after revenge. Someone closer to her family than she could possibly realise. Someone who will stop at nothing until they get the vengeance they crave. And, as she and her family come under increasing threat, the oath that Olivia took when she first became a doctor – to do no harm to others – will be tested to its very limits. Amazon
Open the book and meet the rather intimidating, woman who is Natty Wainwright whose marriage is so successful she runs an upmarket hotel with her husband Sean. Married young, the couple have two teenage daughters, Alice and Felicity and an enviable lifestyle completed by a beautiful home and expensive cars.
Dr Eve Dalladay; beautiful and always perfectly dressed she is also successful psychologist with her own practice and is one of Natty’s oldest friends. Eve is visiting when Natty gets the phone call which changes everything; Felicity is in hospital in France. Eve generously offers to stay and help the couple out by keeping an eye on Alice for a couple of days while Natty makes the trip to care for her youngest daughter. By the time Natty returns Sean has fallen in love and Eve is ensconced at the hotel. It isn’t long before she receives a letter stating that Eve has done this before.
Sorry to scatter this review with clichés but this book is a real page-turner and an absolute compulsive read so that each time I came to the end of a relatively short chapter, I had to read ‘just one more!’ I wanted to know how both Natty and Eve would play their respective hands and Natty’s realistic reaction to being told that her best friend and her husband were an item made me root for her throughout the book despite the fact that she clearly wasn’t some perfect woman who’d never done anything wrong. Paula Daly has created a book made up of flawed characters including some wonderful secondary ones; my favourites being the Policewoman Joanne Aspinall and her aunt Jackie as well as Natty’s father Ken. These true to life people served to add another layer of enjoyment to the story. The only character who appeared a little indistinct was Sean, but without giving any spoilers by the time I had read to the end I think that maybe the author was trying to show us just how insignificant he was to the drama…
Since reading this I am definitely going to find time to read the author’s debut What Kind of Mother Are You? which has been on my TBR for far too long!
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publishers Random House UK in return for this review.
D.I. Lorraine Fisher, one of the characters from the excellent Until You’re Mine, returns to her home town, Radcote, to visit her recently separated sister Jo and her nephew Freddie. What happens next means that the policewoman isn’t in for much of a holiday. The town had been shocked by a spate of teenage suicides eighteen months previously and so when a young homeless man, Dean complete with suicide note is found dead after a motorcycle crash the tension rises as the community closes in on itself not wanting a repeat of the past.
Lorraine and her youngest daughter, Stella are transported to a household on the edge, Freddie is depressed and distant from his mother, even the delectable Lana not enough to make him venture outside his bedroom and Lorraine is at a loss on how to help, especially as her sister’s reckless affair with a local man, has in her opinion, created some of the outcome.
At the centre of the tale is the Hope Homeless Shelter where Sonia Hawkeswell, mother to Lana and whose son Simon had been found hanged during that dreadful time where the town lost so many of its young, helps to run while simultaneously urging her daughter on to become a doctor. Living with them in a converted barn is her autistic Brother-in-Law Gil who is a gifted artist. When Lorraine meets Gil who shows her a picture she begins to realise that the local Police may not have carried out a diligent investigation into the bike crash and with the help of her husband Adam, she is keen to show them the errors of their ways.
So the cast are assembled, the clues numerous and sometimes misleading and the grief unending which for me was one of the elements that made this book harder to read than some of Samantha Hayes previous books. Grief-stricken characters when realistically portrayed are hard to reach and I just didn’t connect with some of the main characters which caused less tension than I would have liked, although there are plenty of other themes that are explored including; on-line bullying, homelessness, relationships of all kinds and secrets.
I received an advance review copy of this book in return for my honest opinion from the publishers, Random House UK ahead of publication on 24 April 2014.
Samantha Hayes has written five previous books which cover a wide range of domestic and emotional topics which often feed into every mother’s worst fears.
Previous Books by Samantha Hayes
Blood Ties – January 1992. A baby girl is left alone for a moment. Long enough for a mother to dash into a shop. Long enough for a child to be taken.
Unspoken – Mary has a past Julia knows nothing about, and it’s come back to haunt her.
Someone Else’s Son – What would you do if your teenage son was stabbed to death in the school playground?
Tell-Tale – story of three women bound together by a shocking secret…
Until You’re Mine – You’re alone. You’re vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost …
It feels like summer here – last Sunday we had a bbq to belatedly celebrate my daughter’s birthday on her return from holiday, and yesterday we took a walk so that we could have breakfast while looking at this wonderful view.
This Week on the Blog
With summer actually making a proper appearance it was fitting that my week started with my first selection for Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer 2018, a challenge that shapes my summer.
My second review of the week was for Only Child by Rhiannon Navin, a heartbreaking tale narrated by a six-year-old boy called Zach.
This Time Last Year…
I was reading Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham. I love a crime fiction book t with a strong contemporary feel and Mark Billingham uses his fourteenth book in the Tom Thorne series to use honour killings as the starting point. The fact that he does this within a brilliantly constructed mystery certainly makes for compelling reading. Mark Billingham has clearly researched his subject matter speaking to those who have been part of those families where the younger generation are resistant to following the rules their parents are keen to uphold but he never forgets that this is a work of fiction, and as such it was gripping.
You can read my full review here or click on the book cover
A BLOODY MESSAGE
As DI Nicola Tanner investigates what appears to be a series of organised killings, her partner Susan is brutally murdered, leaving the detective bereft, and vengeful.
A POWERFUL ALLY
Taken off the case, Tanner enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to pursue a pair of ruthless killers and the broker handing out the deadly contracts.
A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
As the killers target their latest victim, Thorne takes the biggest risk of his career and is drawn into a horrifying and disturbing world in which families will do anything to protect their honour. Amazon
Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?
Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.
But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.
Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . . NetGalley
And my holiday is coming up so I cashed in two of my tokens. Limiting my choices for buying new books has caused endless debates about which books I really, really want – that debate is ongoing and I’m hoping to have another token in the bank so I can choose two more before I leave!
First up is Dying Truth by Angela Marsons, the eighth in her Kim Stone series and a sure fire winner as far as this reader is concerned.
When teenager Sadie Winter jumps from the roof of her school, her death is ruled as suicide – a final devastating act from a troubled girl. But then the broken body of a young boy is discovered at the same school and it’s clear to Detective Kim Stone that these deaths are not tragic accidents.
As Kim and her team begin to unravel a dark web of secrets, one of the teachers could hold the key to the truth. Yet just as she is about to break her silence, she is found dead.
With more children’s lives at risk, Kim has to consider the unthinkable – whether a fellow pupil could be responsible for the murders. Investigating the psychology of children that kill brings the detective into contact with her former adversary, Dr Alex Thorne – the sociopath who has made it her life’s work to destroy Kim.
Desperate to catch the killer, Kim finds a link between the recent murders and an initiation prank that happened at the school decades earlier. But saving these innocent lives comes at a cost – and one of Kim’s own might pay the ultimate price. Amazon
I’ve also bought a copy of A Fractured Winter, the latest book by Alison Baillie after being so impressed by Sewing the Shadows Together
A missing girl.
Olivia’s idyllic family life in a Swiss mountain village is falling apart. She thought she’d managed to escape the past, but it’s coming back to haunt her.
Has somebody discovered her secret – why she had to leave Scotland more than ten years ago?
What is her connection to Marie, a lonely schoolgirl in a Yorkshire seaside town, and Lucy, a student at a Scottish university?
A story of the shadows of the past, the uncertainties of the present and how you can never really know anybody. Amazon
What have you found to read this week? Do share!
Since my last post I have read 3 books and I have gained 3 so the TBR is at a consistent 175
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 46
NetGalley Books –16
Audio Books –1
2013 was a great book reading year for me, I have read many great books of a variety of genres, although as usual the majority were crime fiction! It has been a real struggle to whittle this list down to 10 but here they are, in no particular order!
Click on the book covers to read my reviews.
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
My list starts with a book set in a bookshop. This was a great book for this booklover, with references as diverse as Paddington Bear and 1984 littering the pages, great characters and a bookshop I wanted to work in!
A rousing celebration of books, of the shops where they are sold, and of the people who work, read, and live in them… The Burning Air by Erin Kelly
Of course it was love for my children, love for my son, that caused me to act as I did. It was a lapse of judgement. If I could have foreseen the rippling aftershocks that followed I would have acted differently, but by the time I realised the extent of the consequences, it was too late.
A superb psychological thriller set in Devon over one claustrophobic weekend in November 2013 this book rivals Barbara Vine for one of the best books in this genre.
Dot by Araminta Hall
a long-forgotten photograph of a man, his hair blowing in the breeze. Dot stares so long at the photograph the image begins to disintegrate before her eyes, and as the image fades it is replaced with one thought: ‘I think it’s definitely him.’
Secrets and female relationships dominate this book. Full of delightful characters with an undertone of humour to lighten the emotions that must surely melt the hardest of hearts.
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement, but you can never buy them back.
This powerful book was my surprise find of 2013. A women in court but how and why? At its core this is a book about how we perceive ourselves, through our own eyes and what is reflected back to us in the eyes of others.
Entry Island by Peter May
The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim’s wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.
I had the final part of the Lewis Trilogy down as a favourite of 2013 but have decided Peter May can’t have two books on the top ten (but if you haven’t read the Lewis Trilogy I suggest you do!) so have decided his latest book set between a past on the Isle of Lewis and the present in Canada was the winner for fantastic characters along with a well plotted tale of a woman accused of murder and a past that must be found.
What Lies Within by Tom Vowler
when a convict escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison, their isolation suddenly begins to feel more claustrophobic than free. Fearing for her children’s safety, Anna’s behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. But why is she so distant from her kind husband Robert, and why does she suspect something sinister of her son Paul? All teenagers have their difficult phases…
This was another great find part psychological thriller but containing elements of so much more; a mystery, a crime and relationships.
A Funeral for an Owl by Jane Davis
Times have changed since Jim Stevens chose to teach. Protocol designed to protect children now makes all pupil/teacher relationships taboo – even those that might benefit a student.
This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you have closed the book. Jane Davis Davis really does bring characters to life, mothers, fathers, friends, teachers are all perfectly described along with their actions and reactions to events. (oh and if you have copy I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements!!)
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in – and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.
Lisa Jewell really knows how to write a great story, her books never fail to delight me as they are so much more than ‘chick-lit’ they deal with serious issues without becoming depressing. This is my favourite (I think) of all her novels.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
Another great story-teller (I read What Alice Forgot after this one) with all the ingredients included; a believable plot, characters that are well-developed and writing that pulls the reader in from the first page, plus this isn’t the story you think it is going to be!
The Cry by Helen Fizgerald
He’s gone. And telling the truth won’t bring him back…
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.
A lot of tension in this book, this is definitely not light reading but it is certainly absorbing and haunting.
Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2014
2014 was a fantastic reading year for me although even I was shocked to see that I’d marked a whopping 42 books as 5 star reads this year! Yes that’s quite a lot but to be honest I award stars on instinct when I review and (conceitedly) assume those who look at my reviews read the words, rather than depend on this arbitrary system. One reason I enjoy choosing my Top 10 is because it is interesting to see whether on reflection this instinctive scoring holds true for me. Surprisingly it does and I didn’t feel I had to downgrade any of my choices this year but for those of you who assume I ponder and deliberate and weigh up the merits of one five star read against another, I’m sorry, I don’t.
Fortunately as this post concentrates on books published in 2014, I’ve been able to remove a few of my choices, but as you can imagine it was quite a task to get the list whittled down to just 10. As a compromise some books that I love were featured on my blog post Reading and Reviewing in 2014 !
To help with the decision making I have decided to pick the best from some other genres too starting with Historical Fiction. The winner this year is my most recent five star review
What can I say, beautiful engaging writing, three-dimensional characters, great period detail and…. a crime! This book has a slow start but don’t let that fool you, I had to slow down my reading towards the end as I didn’t want the story to end. Set in the early 1920’s Sarah Waters captures the herald of change with the classes and the genders having to adapt to a new way of life.
My Non-Fiction choice isn’t strictly a book that was published in 2014, that originally occurred back in 1974 but it was republished in 2014 (and this is my blog so my rules!)
This book looks at Middle Class Victorian Murderesses in the United Kingdom and France during the Victorian period. It is far more than a recap of the crimes as the author makes a link between the time, place and class of woman to commentate on women’s lives during this period. A fascinating and far more scholarly work than I anticipated.
I don’t know what made me choose this book, but I’m so glad I did. Told between past and present this has a book in a book, historical details and a cast of characters whose actions are at times reprehensible but who are entirely human made up of good points as well.
This superbly written book invites the reader to absorb every word as it lays the groundwork for what happened on the day in question. The groundwork begins in 1983, the year I became a teenager and the details took me right back to that era. It’s no coincidence that Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within made my top ten listing for 2013 with this almost understated but perceptive writing.
One of my favourite types of novel that concentrate on the why of a mystery rather than the who. Unravelling Oliver peels back the layers of the man who starts this book by saying ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ The multitude of narrators that have interacted with Oliver through his life create a satisfactory background to the man and it isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine.
Favourite book from an established Crime Series. This was a tough one as all the latest books from series I follow, especially Sharon Bolton’s and Peter James’ produced great books this year, however my final choice for this category features Maeve Kerrigan
DC Maeve Kerrigan is caught up in a spate of police killings in the fifth in this series. Once again Jane Casey gets the balance of the police investigation to the personal lives of the characters we know and love (I admit to a little crush on DI Josh Derwent) with a story that is told at the perfect pace. If you haven’t read this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Best Start to a New Crime Series goes to a series that features another woman, Detective Grace Fisher, a crime reporter and missing students.
There was so much to love in this book, a great plot multiple storylines, well-rounded characters all backed up by a decent plot, in fact there was so much going on in this book to enjoy I felt like I’d read a banquet of a book by the time I’d finished.
There were two New to me author’s whose books were so good I had to read more – and after tossing a coin between the winner and Colette McBeth I award this one to:
This choice is another book peopled by well-rounded, if flawed characters. Natty’s husband Sean falls in love with her friend Eve but it appears that this isn’t the first time Eve has behaved in this way, the fallout is spectacular.. After reading this book I immediately bought a copy of Just What Kind of Mother Are You? which was equally as good.
My final two choices are simply two excellent books that I loved and have recommended far and wide ever since I read them.
When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’
Another book set in a school, this time in a primary school and the action takes place at a fund-raiser. Liane Moriarty has created such wonderful characters, brilliant dialogue and the most bizarre murder scene ever. This is a book that packs a punch with much more lurking beneath the seemingly light exterior. This author also made my 2013 top 10 list with The Husband’s Secret.
Cleopatra’s Top Ten Books Published in 2015
Well 2015 has provided me with a great selection of books, so good that I originally had 50 (yes 50!!) books that I had awarded the highest five stars too – now even I can’t pretend that 48 books equals 10. What to do? Well as I decided back in 2013 when I started this blog to feature books published in that year I got to discard some of the older books and two got carried forward to next year – that left me with a mere 39 books to select from.
With such a selection to choose from I’ve had to accept that it is inevitable that some great books are not featured this year but I’ve finally settled on my final list which despite me assuming that my best of each month posts would reflect these closely, this exercise has just proved to me that sometimes it is after letting a book settle a while that you realise those that have really made an impact.
This year is particularly crime heavy, even for me but I hope I’ve managed to show what is available across the spectrum, it isn’t all serial killers and missing children you know!
So in no particular order here we go:
If you click on the book covers you can read the full review for each book
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
A modern take on Strangers on a Train which is ingenious; Ted and Lily meet in an airport lounge and for a bit of fun Lily suggests they should only tell each other the truth. On the flight Ted reveals that he wants to kill his wife as she has been unfaithful, Lily taking the moral high-ground offers to help him. If you like your book with plenty of twists and turns, this could be just the right book for you.
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Perhaps you, like me enjoy books that really delve into the psyche of the characters? If so Pretty Baby will provide just that along with a story which will keep you gripped. Heidi decides to befriend a young woman, Willow when she sees her at a train station with a young baby. Unsurprisingly her husband Chris isn’t totally up for the idea especially as Willow and Ruby look like they are becoming a permanent fixture in their lives with little thought for their own daughter Zoe. The placing of the narratives by Chris and Heidi in the past in relation to Willow’s, as told to a third-party, in the present casts a dark shadow over each episode and the full story is gradually revealed.
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
The only non-fiction choice this year not only had a killer of a title, but it also had one of the most riveting stories I’ve ever read, more so because it was true! The book covers the story behind a number of court cases that spanned a decade which all centred on the belief that Thomas Charles Druce, the owner of a Victorian Bazaar was actually the 5th Duke of Portland, an eccentric and reclusive man. As I say this is a fascinating look at not only the court cases but also gives the reader a glimpse of how real people behaved during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods which isn’t quite how the history books portray it.
Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly MacMillan
Ok so now we do have one missing child story for the mix, but there is far more to this book than the heart in the mouth search for a lost child. Set in Bristol this book gave me an idea of what sort of information I react to when I read or see media reports about crime – what triggers in the news cause me to make snap judgements about the truth behind the news? A very clever book that made me think as well as being totally entertaining from an investigative perspective with this unfolding chronologically I needed to know the outcome.
Note readers in the US can read this under the title What She Knew in 2016
Lost Girls by Angela Marsons
Angela Marsons had her debut novel published in February 2015 and this was her third book featuring the likeable Detective Kim Stone – yes you read that correctly, this is the third in the series. I could easily have included all of her books but this was my favourite premise. More lost children I’m afraid… Two friends are kidnapped but the kidnapper has an extreme way of pushing up the money they will receive, the two sets of parents are pitted against each other! As you can imagine the fallout is spectacular.
Disclaimer by Renée Knight
Back in April I predicted this book would make my top ten reads of the year, and it has, one book that didn’t need to settle, I knew this was a hit more or less from the first page. It was also one of the hardest to review as there is so little that can be said about the plot without inadvertently spoiling it for others. I liked that the author skilfully manipulated my emotions, over and over again. If you want a book that is full of surprises, choose this book. I have recommended this far and wide (in the real world) and everyone who listened, has loved it!
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths
Missing children again, but this time back in history being set in Brighton in 1951. In the second in the Max Mephisto the book is far more a complex puzzle with a feel of an old-fashioned detective novel with clues rather than forensics at the fore. Tied in with a production of Aladdin there is links to another murder years before all to be solved by a wonderful cast of characters. Fancy trying a different type of crime fiction – this could be for you.
A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hannah
The queen of psychological thrillers completely wowed me with this, a stand-alone novel which had me utterly and completely confused. Now I see you scratching your heads because that doesn’t sound like fun but therein lies the genius of this book. Told in part in a story written by a teenager and part in real-life the writing was thoroughly entertaining even if I couldn’t for the life of me work out what the point was – rest assured there was a point and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this amazing read.
Hidden by Emma Kavanagh
Want a mixture of investigative and psychological crime fiction? Hidden opens with a shooting at a Welsh hospital and the descriptions aren’t for the faint-hearted. What follows is an in-depth look at the crime from multiple viewpoints over an ever-changing time period before and after the shooting.. the result is amazing – this complex structure worked, against all odds.
The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minnet
This debut novel is another book that has an opener that will become seared on your memory when a young boy sets fire to two girls in a school playground yet the opening is backed up by a thoughtful, deep and in places deeply moving novel with some of the most consistently rounded characters I have ever had the pleasure to read about. With a mystery legacy for one woman and secrets bubbling throughout, this is a book that made me think about all manner of moral questions. Most definitely the surprise hit of the year for me!
So my top ten is just that – ten great books that have stamped themselves onto my memory in a variety of ways.
If you want to see more of the 144 books I’ve read in 2015
Bronte is just ten years old but she has a punishing schedule of piano classes, harp lessons and because her mother Karen Bloom is worried about the way she reads aloud, she also needs to fit in some drama classes to help that out. Of course she also has extra homework to ensure that she excels in every subject, but things in the Bloom household hide more than the obvious maternal pushing of Karen.
Noel Bloom is a doctor who seems to also be keen on alcohol, or maybe this is a mask for avoiding his home life aka known as Karen. Noel had left his first wife Jennifer when Karen became pregnant with Bronte. Jennifer now lives in a nursing home due to her MS which means that Noel’s first daughter Verity, now a feisty teenager lives with him too. Oh and there is Karen’s son from a previous relationship, a relationship she doesn’t want to discuss. Ewan now in his late teens is something of a disappointment to Karen and she is determined that Bronte will be far more successful.
So far so good, we have all met a Karen, a woman who imagines that the other mothers are lazy and misguided, a woman the is focussed on getting the best for her daughter no matter the cost. Then something happens which turns everything on its head and life for the Bloom family will never be the same again!
Paula Daly is at her best when she is creating characters we love to hate. She has made Karen a figure that can’t be pitied, so what emotions are left? She is also far better than many writers at creating convincing characters of the children. Although for a good part of the book Ewan was only partially visible, he too comes into his own later on, with a convincing performance that works to round the stereotypical view painted by his mother of a no-hoper.
As the plot begins to unfold the cracks in the family really begin to show and with each member taking a stance, I wouldn’t want to have lived there as they circled and protected in equal measure. Because underneath the plotline this is a story about relationships too. Modern blended families provide a wealth of complex bonds, that between Verity and Bronte being my favourite of the entire book. Two sisters who have had very different upbringings, have different aptitudes and different mothers are nonetheless siblings.
But best of all this book features the return of DS Joanne Aspinall, one of my favourite characters who first appeared in Just What Kind of Mother Are You? And she has a much larger part to play this time. She is running an investigation that involves the entire Bloom family, and she will get her answers. She also provides much of the witticisms that appear in The Trophy Child which despite the seriousness of the subject, gives the book a real jaunty feeling at times.
All in all a totally compelling read which had me engrossed, madly guessing the outcome from the very first page, all whilst giving me the impression that I was part of the investigation, if only I could sort out those red herrings from the clues that gave the answers. How did I do? Pretty badly, as usual although I had one strand cracked early on, Paula Daly was just far too wily for this amateur detective.
I would like to thank the publishers Grove Atlantic for giving me a copy of The Trophy Child. This review is my thank you to them and the incredibly talented Paula Daly.
First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller Amazon UK Amazon US