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

Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Everything But The Truth is a psychological thriller but not of the ilk that you might be expecting from the genre. This superb read is a quieter more thoughtful book with moral dilemmas at its heart rather than the fast paced action packed books that is now the norm for books marketed under this heading. That doesn’t mean this book isn’t gripping, far from it!

Rachel is pregnant, one that wasn’t planned, well there was hardly enough time for that in her new relationship with Jack, but the pregnancy isn’t a disaster, both are thrilled about the baby on the way and Rachel is delighted to have found ‘the one.’ Rachel works in a law firm as an administrator having left her job as a paediatric doctor while Jack is working as a journalist in Newcastle having moved for a temporary role from his hometown of Oban. All is going well although the couple have yet to move in together in readiness for the forthcoming baby.

Then late one night Jack’s iPad lights up and half-asleep Rachel reads the email sent which mentions an event that she knows nothing about. Rachel begins to wonder how well she knows Jack especially when the short reply he gives the next morning, isn’t wholly convincing.

The book then follows Rachel and Jack forward from this moment where Rachel is determined to find out the truth whatever the cost, but is she right to keep digging? And what is she going to do if she ever finds out? We also see what Rachel’s life was like before Jack, when she was working I the hospital, this strand takes a while before the relevance of this becomes clear, but all is revealed later Beyond that I can’t say anything about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else.

There is no doubt that Gillian McAllister knows how to weave a tale that is complex and has space built into the narrative that allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, and yes to make judgements on that tricky morality scale. All the characters are exceptionally well drawn, Rachel and Jack behave in ways that felt absolutely realistic, but so do the secondary characters who are varied and memorable in their own right. I often think that social situations are the hardest to transfer to the page, after all those family walks where in reality no-one says anything particularly scintillating are rarely found in books, but when Jack and Rachel went for a walk with Jack’s parents and brother, it was an evocative scene full of Scottish mist with convincing everyday ordinariness.

One of the strands of Everything But The Truth linked to a personal experience of mine which meant that this is one of those magical books that really ‘spoke to me’ . In this part I had predicted the outcome, but that made it no less devastating to read the words I didn’t want to see on the page. Yes, this book had me sobbing, but it also entertained me, made me think and painted a picture of a young couple that imprinted themselves onto my memory. I won’t forget this book in a long while it had that big an impact on me. There is so much packed into this book that I really do think that there are going to be few readers that are not drawn into some aspect of this clever, fresh-feeling addition to the genre.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book for review purposes from Penguin Books and this honest review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 9 March 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 420
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Quieter than Killing – Sarah Hilary

Crime Fiction
5*s

Quieter than Killing starts with a chilling prologue; a young boy listens to the sound of a car being washed, carrots being chopped and a boy in a red bedroom surrounded by a girl’s possessions. This outwardly domestic scene has an unfathomable undercurrent that let me know from the first short sentence that the latest book in the DI Marnie Rome series, her fourth outing, was going to be a real treat.

So starts another brilliant outing for DI Marnie Rome and her partner DS Jake Noah in a race against time to work out what links what appears to be violent attacks on people who have previously been convicted of crimes as disparate as kidnapping and assault. Then the new perpetrator goes too far and one of their victims dies. Who is picking these latest victims and why won’t they reveal who is hurting them? With crimes that seem to take no account of age, sex or years since the original crime, finding the killer is going to need the sharpest of detectives. Meanwhile Marnie is left shaken when her parent’s former home is burgled and her tenants badly hurt at the same time and are in the hospital.

During earlier books in this series we’re aware of the crimes committed by Marnie’s foster brother Stephen and his mischief-making is still ongoing, as are Jake’s problems with his younger brother who has been embroiled in the local gangs. This mixture of police investigation with their personal problems is one of the aspects I really enjoy and the two worlds are becoming too close for comfort for both officers. The pair find themselves investigating the gangs and their increasingly young recruits. And then things seem to get personal and with Marnie’s boss, and chief protector and supporter, off work with a serious illness, Marnie has to learn to confront attacks both personal and professional without him at the same time she has to prove herself to the woman drafted in to lead the Murder Investigation Team.

The plotting as ever is exquisite with perfect pacing which takes us down more than one blind alley, each time the tension rises to a new height. This is the twistiest of the series yet, but the author keeps a handle on the strands so that at no time did I consider any revelation, one too many. It is refreshing to be able to relish a story without feeling as if everything is positioned just to confuse, but that these events are not only possible, but likely to happen.

Of course the most engaging of plots wouldn’t get far without great characters and whilst the two detectives are already well-defined, they show parts of their characters that haven’t been quite so obvious before and they are joined by a great supporting cast. To Sarah Hilary, it doesn’t matter if you are a goodie or a baddie, she will add layers to both surprise and delight.

So we have plot and characters and even better Sarah Hilary adds a brilliant turn of phrase to the trinity. For anyone who is under the misapprehension that crime writers can produce a great book without knowing their crime as it is all about the whodunit and less about the well-crafted phrase, all I can say is read this book and experience how great a read can be when all three come together.

I am very grateful to the publishers Headline who allowed me to read an advance copy of Quieter than Killing ahead of publication of 9 March 2017.
Previous books in the DI Marnie Rome Series:

Someone Else’s Skin
No Other Darkness
Tastes Like Fear

First Published UK: 9 March 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Let the Dead Speak – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction
5*s

Eighteen year old Chloe Emery left her father’s house and made her way home to her mother and in these earliest scenes I was left in no doubt at all that something awful is about to happen as her neighbour, Oliver Norris, offers her a lift and drops her home. She dashes inside the house out of the rain and then slowly, very slowly, she realises that all is not as it should be. The house smells funny and there is mud everywhere, only it is not mud, it’s blood.

Maeve Kerrigan has been promoted and she is now a DS, eager to prove herself in the new role and determined that Josh Derwent is going to realise she doesn’t need him treating her like a junior anymore. The pair are called to the Emery house where despite the lack of a body, a murder investigation is launched; Chloe’s mother Kate is nowhere to be found and all her belongings are still at home. This could prove to be a PR disaster for the police if Kate is not dead, but an equal one if they don’t treat it seriously enough.

Right from the off I had masses of questions, was Chloe really as slow as she seemed, and if so why was her bright younger neighbour, Bethany Norris so keen to spend so much time with her? With Chloe reluctant to tell the officers exactly where she’s been since she left her father’s house, or even why she left without saying goodbye, the police are sure they are missing some vital information. But, at least Chloe is safe staying with the Norris’s while the house is a crime scene.

We have a new younger woman on the team too, Georgina who it’s safe to say isn’t a hit with Maeve and so her efforts to impress fall somewhat flat but it takes her a while to cotton on. This is just one example of how Jane Casey gets the tone exactly right. Maeve may well not take to Georgina, but she tries. She doesn’t go for the all-out put downs but tries to temper them with some helpful advice, that way when Georgina screws up, we all know who to blame.

This is, like all the other books in the series, action packed with life-threatening moments coming not just where you expect them, at the end of the book. The pacing is immaculate, once I started this one, I really was terribly reluctant to put it down. There is intrigue as well as all the deadly sins, none as deadly as those inflicted on those who should be closest to us, our family. The casual lies, betrayals and greed are sewn deep into the very fabric of this book, and few of the minor characters come away with anything like an intact reputation which gives plenty of suspects to be suspected!

Now if you want taut plotting and a cast of characters to delight, then you don’t need to look any further, Jane Casey delivers on both. Even better there is an undercurrent of humour which serves to deflect from any of the horrific pictures your imagination may serve up, and believe me, there are plenty of such opportunities.

I was extremely lucky to be given a proof copy of Let The Dead Speak by the publishers ahead of publication date of 9 March 2017!

The Maeve Kerrigan Series in Order

The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl
The Stranger You Know
The Kill
After The Fire

First Published UK: 9 March 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Long Drop – Denise Mina

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

This is the story of Peter Manuel, not a recreation of his crimes scrawled baldly across the page but a nuanced look at the man, both behind the vile acts he perpetrated and the one that he was in his own mind. In Peter’s head there was still the possibility to be another Peter, the one who was a writer and was famous for something other than burglarising, vandalising and raping. When he met the long drop (the method used for hanging in Scotland) he wasn’t the other Peter though, he was the man who wasn’t as clever as he thought he was.

Denise Mina has created a night Peter spent with the father of one of his victims. A father, husband and brother-in-law to three women who didn’t live to say what their last night was like but William Watt wants to know, particularly as he was arrested for the crimes himself, and so his lawyer Laurence Dowdall, having secured Manuel’s agreement, accompanies the men on a meeting in a restaurant one wintry Glaswegian night in 1957. Laurence Dowdall leaves the two men to it and they spend the entire night drinking, visiting clubs before finally winding up drinking a cup of tea in a car outside Manuel’s house, his mother a mere shadow behind the curtains.

The nuanced and assured storytelling is gripping with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. It tells the story of a whole community which had violence running through it. The men jostling for position, just as Manuel and William Watt did in the pub, desperate to hold prime position, not to be outdone by lesser men. Being hard was what it was all about and the men who both protected and beat their women with fierce pride.

Of course we do learn about Manuel’s crimes too in a similar fashion, this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered. There is no doubt that Peter Manuel was not a nice man but we also see him through his parent’s eyes. One particular scene about their visit to the prison is one that I suspect is seared into my memory for ever, the emotions roll off the page in an understated manner which pulled at my heart-strings all the more for those that remained unsaid. I have a particular respect for writers who leave the reader the space to fill in the gaps, to allow them to put themselves in the shoes of a mother of a murderer without justifying the emotions she felt and what she might feel in a week hence.

This without a doubt is one of the best books I’ve read based on a true crime with this relatively short book being jam-packed with details which are wide-ranging. It did help that I had recently watched the television drama In Plain Sight, because previously I hadn’t heard of this man, although I’m now aware that for years afterwards his name was used as a synonym for the bogeyman for Glaswegian children.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of The Long Drop prior to the publication by Random House UK on 2 March 2017. This unbiased review is my thank you to them and of course the incredibly talented Denise Mina.

First Published UK: 2 March 2017
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 240
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths – Blog Tour (#BookReview)

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I am a huge fan of this series which features the down to earth Dr Ruth Galloway and the surprisingly complex DCI Harry Nelson so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, the ninth book in the series which was published on 23 February 2017.

the-chalk-pit-blog-tour

To kick off the tour I give you my humble opinion of this great book!

Book Review

Another outing for Ruth Galloway and this time the action is firmly set in Norwich when bones are found in an underground tunnel under Guildhall, which is something of an inconvenience for Quentin Swain the architect who is looking to use the space to build a swanky restaurant. Ruth overcomes her dislike of enclosed spaces to take a trip below the city to take a look; she’s fairly sure that they are old bones so sends them off to be tested.

Meanwhile the police are investigating the disappearance of a homeless woman, Babs in Norwich who has disappeared without trace. Eddie who has made the police station his bedroom, has reported her missing and it is clear when the police starts talking to the other members of the community, that they are worried about her too, but many are cautious of the police. And then a housewife goes missing in very suspicious circumstances and the police are forced to consider whether there can be a link to Babs.

I have to say that this book treats the subject of homelessness with far more nuance than any other that I’ve read. Elly Griffiths has given each of the many men, and they usually are men, a realistic story of how they came to be on the street, and why they are unwilling to accept the help offered to them but she has resisted the urge to make them all out to be saints which means that her attempts to make them realistic characters is so much more effective.
One of the many aspects of this series which I love is the link between Ruth and DI Nelson through their daughter Kate and the peek behind their working lives into what can only fairly be described as muddled. These insights leak around the side of the main investigation, never overwhelming it but often cleverly linking or echoing the themes.

In this book Kate is offered the part in a play. Ruth isn’t too sure whether this is a good idea but a few words from her mother and outright disapproval from Nelson means that Kate winds up playing the child Alice in a quirky adaption of that famous story called Alice Underground. The adult Alice being played by Cassandra wife of DS Clough.

The other aspect I really enjoy is that upon opening up the latest in the series I feel like I’m meeting old friends with the characters, distinct and engaging as ever, we had plenty of news to catch up on while underground tunnels were being searched and pits opening up in the road are causing chaos in Norwich. Ruth Galloway also links back to past books with little asides so this really is one of those series which is best read in order although there is a helpful who’s who guide at the back of the book for those of you reckless readers who are happy to dive in straight at book nine!

The familiarity of the characters alongside the first person narrative really make me feel that I am part of the book. So I know what’s going on and I can often predict the individual character’s response, but the plotting is so devious that I am no match for the detectives, I am merely on the side lines waiting for them to crack the case in indomitable style.

Although to be honest there isn’t one of these books that I haven’t enjoyed, the plotting in this one seemed tauter and the links more robust than some of the previous books. When you combine the excellent mystery with some intriguing personal lives and a look at a community which rarely has an accurate spotlight trained on it whilst seamlessly providing the history of the underground tunnels in Norwich, The Chalk Pit was a sure fire winner.

ellygriffiths-c-sara-reeve-3
Elly Griffiths – Sara Reeve

Dr Ruth Galloway Books in Order

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

First Published UK: 23 February 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

The Other Typist is Rose’s tale we hear of her life working as a typist in a Police Precinct in Brooklyn, her shared room in a Boarding House with the room divided by a curtain, the other half containing a woman who Rose possibly dislikes, but definitely feels superior to. In 1920s Brooklyn the Prohibition period is in force and the Police Commander has decided that his force should be arresting those running the latest speakeasy which has popped up and then melt away around the city.

Enter Odile, a beautiful graceful creature, one with bags of sophistication, beautiful clothes and an easy manner. Odile is the ‘other typist’ the newest to join the typing pool. Rose is instantly both bewitched and disapproving of Odile, well that is until Odile decides to befriend her which leads to a chain of events that Rose could never have predicted.

The two girls become friends and moving from typing up the statements and sometimes confessions of the local gangsters and crooks, the girls attend the very speakeasy the police force they work for are supposed to be bringing to justice. There is a real sense of place and time in The Other Typist. I could quite have easily joined them on a night out in a beaded dress and sipping the champagne cocktails which were strictly prohibited. I think the secret locations with passwords required to gain entry would only make a night of partying with the select few who were in the know all the more alluring.

Rose narrates her story with a distinctive voice. We hear that Rose was an orphan, who was bought up by nuns but clearly a clever girl; she was one of the lucky ones who got an education. She is so obviously Odile’s inferior on the social scale but Rose has a sense of superiority that outweighs, well nearly, these facts. Indeed Rose’s narrative strongly reminded me of Barbara Covett in Zoe Heller’s novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, both require a different label to ‘unreliable narrator’ I suggest ‘nebulous narrator’ is a far more accurate description as even at the end of the book, it was hard to separate the facts from the fiction. Rose’s sense of superiority is an overriding feature of her narrative style, and yet there is a sense that she realises that this is unfounded at times, all of which should make her unlikeable to her reader, but it didn’t, I felt a certain amount of fondness for this spiky young woman. Of course there are a number of other characters who have their parts to play but it must be remembered that all of these characters are viewed through Rose’s eyes, and Rose is only really watching one person, Odile.

Fairly early on in the book we learn that Rose is recounting her story from a hospital and so we get some sense of where the ending might lie, but the fun is entirely in the journey. So we follow Rose to work where she admires the Sergeant but isn’t quite so sure about the Lieutenant. Where she types faster than anyone else, naturally without making any mistakes. A life where she is able to judge how a particular interview will play out and yet she melts into the background where the police, all men of course, go about getting their confessions. We watch as her certainties about right and wrong unravel under Odile’s influence as she whirls around the dance floor with the latest contraband cocktail in hand until life whirls a little bit too fast and the wheels come off.

This was a superb story, even more so when you consider that this is the author’s debut novel and it was one which had me completely entranced with an ending has had me pondering for a good few days now. If like me you had this lingering on some TBR list of one description or another, don’t delay pull it out and read it!

mount-tbr-2017
 
 

First Published UK: 2013
Publisher: Allison & Fig Tree
No of Pages:  369
Genre: Historical Fiction – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Erin Kelly has once again proved that she is an extremely talented writer, one who weaves a tale full of twists and turns, yet without resorting to cheap tricks. This is a book that stands proud in a now crowded genre, one that relies on superb plotting and brilliantly nuanced characters, the result being I was convinced by both.

In 1999 Laura and Kit were at Lizard’s Point in Cornwall to watch the total eclipse of the sun. For Laura this was her first experience but Kit and his twin brother Mac had, along with their father Lachlan, travelled far and wide as part of a group of eclipse chasers to see this rare phenomenon. In Cornwall Mac, his girlfriend Ling and Kit had decided to make some money to cover the trip by selling hot drinks at the festival but with the British weather being, well, British, the event isn’t as well attended as expected. Laura turns up having travelled down later and watches the eclipse with suitable awe and then stumbles across a young woman, her own age, being raped. Or that is what she believes.

With the story moving backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999 to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse, we learn what an impact that meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years.

He Said/She Said
looks at the issue of rape from a number of perspectives with the court room reflecting the crux of the matter, as the title indicates. Jamie, the accused says that Laura got it wrong, he was having consensual sex with Beth when he was interrupted by the couple. Beth maintains it was non-consensual but she froze in the moment. Kit didn’t see anything, he was lagging behind but followed Jamie when he left the scene at Laura’s behest. There are other elements familiar from news reports of some recent big trials not least the fact that Jamie’s family are wealthy, he has a top lawyer and his family, including his fiancée, are in the courtroom supporting him. Who will the jury believe?

So we have a very modern tale told in the main by Laura and Kit which should have concluded the day the trial was over but Beth needing support from those who were there turns up at their London flat and is welcomed, at least by Laura. Kit is less sure, worried that if there is an appeal, that the girls have undermined any chance of a retrial by potentially being accused of colluding with each other. Three’s a crowd begins to be a very apt saying as tensions increase.

This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think but I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her reader and she avoids bashing the reader over the head about rape, and the trials that all too rarely follow such an accusation. I believe it is a sign of a writer who has confidence, not only in herself, but of her readers to air the important issues this way.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot, which is excellent not only in the premise but also in its execution. The pace had me travelling through the chapters, headed up by images of the sun at various points of an eclipse, as I became more immersed in a story and characters that I truly believed in.

Trust me, you really don’t want to miss out on this book!

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages:  416
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Erin Kelly

The Poison Tree – 2010
The Sick Rose – 2011
The Burning Air -2013
The Ties that Bind – 2014
Broadchurch: The Novel – 2014

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

After She Fell – Mary-Jane Riley

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Alex Devlin has moved since the truth of what happened to her sister’s children emerged at the end of The Bad Things, she now lives in London far from the wide open spaces of Sole Bay but she has secured herself a job as a journalist writing, at least in part, serious pieces. Sadly moving doesn’t stop time from marching on and while her beloved son Gus is off carrying out his own investigation travelling around Europe she feels at a bit of a loose end.

All that changes when she receives a call from a very old friend. Catriona is now a powerful woman, MEP and newly married to a younger man but the investigation she wants Alex to carry out is far from that world. Her seventeen year old daughter Elena Devonshire has committed suicide, it is official the Coronor’s inquest has deemed it so but Catriona simply doesn’t believe it. Promising money and an exclusive Alex can’t resist her friend’s pleas and sets of for North Norfolk, to her home country, to see the exclusive boarding school, The Drift, where Elena was at the time of her death.

With accusations of depression and anorexia levelled against Elena, Alex needs to get passed the highly controlling head teachers who are determined to protect the school’s reputation at any cost so she finds a teacher on the inside, to do the job for her but will he be able to come up with enough information to help the bereft Catriona?

Once again Mary-Jane Riley has painted a wonderful selection of characters, some nastier than others, against the brilliant backdrop of the setting all with a lightness of touch so that the picture is painted while the action is taking place.

The oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia, it was open to the public on certain days of the year. Thankfully, today was not one of those days.

There was no feasible excuse for her to be half-lying down in the middle of a rape field.

The village was the slightly brasher sister of Sole Bay, thought Alex, as she walked aong the beach road into Mundesley. An amusement arcade, one fish and chip shop on the front, and a couple of magnificent hotels built in the town’s heyday as a seaside destination, al made her feel as though she had stepped back forty years. It was a good feeling. Safe.

We meet the impatient second husband, the awful head teachers, the overly exuberant school receptionist and a raggle-taggle bag of teachers, and don’t even let me get started on the awful array of posh kids at the school, or their poorer relations in the village with whom a healthy rivalry is kept alive. The thing I like about Mary-Jane Riley’s characters is that there are elements of realism about them all, even those who don’t get a centre-stage part, those who often rely to a certain extent on clichés and prejudice, are given shading providing them with clear definition, thereby making them real. So real that I could easily imagine visiting Hallow’s Edge and walk into Hallow’s Edge Tea Parlour for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and giving a nod of recognition to those who grace the pages of After She Fell.

This is one of those books where the reader has more information to hand than the investigator because we hear Elena’s voice through her diary – labelled with the number of weeks before she dies, lest we forget for one moment. Elena’s voice is authentic, she isn’t an identikit teenager although from time to time she talks the talk, even if she doesn’t do the walk. Elena has one friend from her old life with her, Tara, a plump girl who longs to be part of the ‘in group’ the Queen Bees, whereas Elena has a different focus, one that she’s keeping secret, even from Tara. Will finding out what this secret is, enable Alex to give Catriona the real story of what happened that night?

I particularly love books that have multiple strands and while some of these seem more important than others, the author hasn’t let even the minor ones drift without some sort of tethering which makes for one tense ending, I can tell you.

This is book #2 in my Mount TBR Challenge as I purchased the book as soon as I finished The Bad Things in November 2016. Don’t miss the first Put A Book On The Map post on Saturday 4 February where Mary-Jane Riley will be talking about the setting of her books alongside one of my favourite bloggers Katherine from Bibliomaniac UK – in a show of blogger collaboration we are also linking with The Book Trail who will be providing her own unique map of the books.

mount-tbr-2017

 

First Published UK: 28 April 2016
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough #WTFthatending

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

Louise is a single mother not looking for fun when she meets an attractive stranger in a bar on a rare night out. It all looks promising and she is left with the memory of a kiss from the handsome stranger. Sadly for Louise, she also finds out that he’s married, and will be starting work as the new psychologist starting at the private practice she works for. As a modern woman she grabs whatever she can from the encounter and uses it to entertain her friend over a bottle or two of wine and a big belly laugh at her expense.

The reality of course was different to the tale she spun her friend. Louise had been devastated to see David walk into the office where she works as a PA, not least because his stunning wife Adele was on his arm, she did the only thing she could think of, she hid in the toilets until his welcome tour was over.

David and Adele have just moved to the area and Louise’s luck just isn’t playing ball. Would you believe it? Just a few days later she literally bumps into Adele on the street near her son’s school and before she knows it she is having coffee with this slightly timid but lovely woman. What Adele tells, or in part leaves unsaid, her makes her view her new boss in a different light.

Now this is the most highly hyped psychological thriller of the year – it comes complete with the killer hashtag #WTFthatending so I was expecting something brilliant, and yes, I got it. I was determined not to be drawn in by the hashtag, but despite that, this really wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and if I’m honest, if I’d had an inkling beforehand, I might very well have dismissed this book. But, and here’s the thing, sometimes brilliant writing can and does overcome what I think I do or don’t like in books and while I was in the grip of the action, Sarah Pinborough’s writing had me completely convinced. She did a marvellous job of creating all three main protagonists, not a hint of a cardboard cutout filled in with clichés but people who appear to be a mixture of good, and the not so good, and that went a hell of a long way into making me care, in part about all three although in the best traditions of the genre, my sympathies altered depending on the latest piece of information – and believe me, there are lots of pieces to put together before you get to that ending! Despite the hashtag there is a lot of enjoyment to be had throughout the story, this isn’t a book that stands on its ending alone, in many ways trying to grapple with where the truth may possibly lie during the main part of the book was equally, if not more satisfying.

I can see this being a massive hit, perfect for diving into on winter’s nights and equally likely to be seen around the pool while on holiday. Yes, you may well finish the book like I did and on reflection wonder how the book had you quite so hooked, but the truth is, it did and I was! I can assure you that I won’t forget David, Louise or Adele in a hurry and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

This book sits firmly in the psychological thriller genre, not only is this completely mind-blowing it is a fast-paced read too. Not that I expect anything less from this excellent author who I think is one of the best writers in this genre.

The book opens with a woman, later we discover, Louisa Williams, being chased in her car by her husband Sam. Worse still she isn’t alone in her white Fiat, her two young children are in the back. Louisa wakes up from the resulting coma in hospital, alone and to add insult to injury is told that she is ‘lucky.’ That’s not quite how Louisa sees it! Sam may have lost his life in the crash but Louisa has to live her life without her precious children.

It doesn’t take long, not long enough for the reader to have absorbed the shocking facts of the car crash, that we discover that Louisa’s battle is far from over. Not anywhere near recovered Louisa is visited in hospital:

“If you survive,” the voice says, “if you survive, I’m not going to let you get away with it. If you survive, you’d better watch out, Louisa.”

As Louisa gets stronger and faces the inquest into Sam’s death her name is prefixed with ‘Tragic’ in the media but Louisa is strong, and with the help of her lawyer, Fiona, she moves away from the home she shared with Sam and starts a new life in a new home in a new city with a new job with a new name, no longer Tragic Louisa!

Sam had a lover, Sophie and she doesn’t believe the inquest verdict. As far as she’s concerned the Sam she knew wouldn’t have driven Louisa off the road on purpose but Sophie has lied before, she has form and no-one wants to hear from the devoted mistress.

For a while we hear the outline of the run up to the crash and slowly it becomes clear that this isn’t the straightforward domestic violence storyline you are expecting. Oh no, imagine the darkest books you’ve read in this genre, and then go blacker still. Some of the clues are given by Louisa herself while other parts of the story are revealed by Sophie and somewhere in the middle, perhaps is where the truth lies? You will need to find out for yourselves though…

And that is all I’m going to say about the plot because like all these types of books, the least you know before opening the first page, the more enjoyment you’ll get from the resulting ride which isn’t unlike the opening scenes. One moment you’re travelling along a fairly well-known road, with a bullish husband, a meek wife and a dodgy affair, the next everything is turned on its head before you roll down the slope not knowing which way is up… or down.
What Julia Crouch does to keep the story anchored in reality it to insert scenes that are so familiar that we all have reference points, this is reality. After all many of us may not have been to an inquest, but most of us have started a new job. Some of us may even have started a new job and realised that we have chosen the wrong clothes, as Louisa did. Those of us who are parents may well have attended a mother and toddler group and faced the embarrassment of having the child that is at the ‘grabby stage’ and had to face down the poor subject’s hostile mother. These scenes are so spot on, written in a style that makes them more than just a footnote to the storyline, a means of bonding the reader with the character, the common ground that says ‘I know you’

The plotting is sublime, the use of the information to flesh out the story while at the same time keeping that tension maintained through what is a fairly long book is no less than an art form. All of this contributed to the feeling that although on one level unlikely, this really did happen and Louisa and Sophie exist along with the other incredibly life-like people that inhabit Her Husband’s Lover. This is a stupendous read one that deserves the real world to fade away and let you enjoy the scary journey.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Julia Crouch who sent me a copy of this book complete with a written card some time ago. It has taken a huge amount of willpower to leave it until closer to the publication date of 26 January 2017 to read and review, but the wait and anticipation was worth every minute.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages:  480
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Other Books by Julia Crouch

Cuckoo
Every Vow You Break
Tarnished
The Long Fall