Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

You Don’t Know Me – Imran Mahmood

Crime Fiction

A defendant takes the stand to give his closing speech, his lawyer unable or unwilling to proceed under his client’s instruction. What happens next is one of the most unusual, and thought provoking crime fiction reads that I have come across in a long time.

The defendant starts by stating that his lawyer had asked him to leave some parts of the story out, as the truth can be too difficult to explain or perhaps just too far away from the jurors who will have to decide whether the eight pieces of evidence that the prosecution have presented have raised the bar too far for reasonable doubt to win the day.

The narrative structure of this book is without break one young man’s description of his counter claims against the crucial pieces of evidence presented and as such it is incredibly powerful but also at times a difficult one to pull off; this is not a short book and I am unused to one voice without interruption, but on balance this difference is one of the things that will make me remember this book long after I have read and forgotten many others.

From my point of view, and as the book is presented, I was one of the jurors listening to a young man who lives a life unlike the one he does, and has all of his life, and that was obviously part of the point. I was there to judge with complete with ignorance about gangs and the way that those who live in areas controlled by them are powerless to stay completely clear of their influence, even if they don’t join the gang itself, which I’m very glad to say our defendant hadn’t. The book starts off with quite a lot of street vernacular, which sets the scene but the usage of this decreases as the speech continues, just used enough to remind the reader that you are listening to a young man who is fighting for his freedom, against what he sees as an injustice.

I have to admit this book got to me. Not only did I learn something about stuff I only see on the news, which was both skilfully presented without at all glorifying gangs, but perhaps explaining a little about a world that thankfully hasn’t touched my life. You Don’t Know Me also gave an insight into how the way a story is presented, how much you buy into that story depends on how believable each of its elements is. That said I very much doubt that any judge would have allowed this speech on length and the mass introduction of new evidence, but that didn’t in anyway detract from the gripping nature of the narrative. The world as many of us know, is made up of shades of grey and I was interested to see how much towards the black shades I was willing to go before I said ‘enough,’ and the answer was further than I would have expected before I started reading this one.

A superb debut with much to think about and as such this would make an unusual book club read, but one that I’m sure would provide a lively debate, not only about the content itself but the way the story is presented.

I’m very grateful to Penguin UK for allowing me to read an ARC of this unique crime fiction novel. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 376
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Want You Gone – Chris Brookmyre #Blogtour #bookreview

Crime Fiction

Computer hacking isn’t a subject I’d normally be drawn to as anything IT related is a turn-off as far as I’m concerned, but as I’d heard such good things about this author and having no hope of catching up on the previous seven books in the series, Want You Gone was where I started, and I was totally drawn into the world of internet chat rooms with anonymous men ‘there are no women on the internet’ conspiring to all sorts of three-letter acronyms.

Sam Morpeth is struggling, she’s at college but in charge of her disabled younger sister, Lily, as her mother is in prison. Sam is a loner, she doesn’t fit in at school, and she’s struggling to pay the bills. Sam decides she has no option but to take a part-time job in a sandwich shop, but then she attracts the wrong kind of attention. Added to all of that she’s sure that her mother is keeping secrets from her.

Jack Parlabane is kicking off the traces to whatever trouble he’d been in which something to do with the hacking scandal, and he’s found employment as a journalist on a new paper, Broadwave. He’s determined not to mess up again especially as he’s enjoying the opportunity to do more in-depth reporting and his links to a hacker give him an in on a recent security breach by the hackers at a major bank. With the police looking for the perpetrators and the bank severely embarrassed will Jack be able to uncover the truth?

If I’m reading contemporary crime fiction, I like the themes to be current and thought-provoking and Chris Brookmyre carries off this brief off with alacrity. Obviously the internet has been part of our lives for long enough for it to be hard to remember what life was like before it, but the telephone hacking scandal is recent enough for the repercussions still making their mark and I suspect most journalists work in a more circumspect way then they did before the Leveson inquiry. All of this is well-reflected in the storyline without the reader feeling hammered over the head, there simply isn’t time as the plot moves along at a fair old pace, with twists and turns, all aided and abetted by the shadowy nature of the characters. In another novel all the cloak and dagger might seem all too convenient whereas it fits perfectly with the themes that underpin this compelling read.

There is masses of action in Want You Gone and despite the technical aspects of this book, it never felt burdensome and everything was clearly explained in words that this technophobe could understand. I liked the interaction between Sam and Jack, there comes a point where despite neither trusting, nor liking, the other, they had to work together for a common aim. A tough piece of character conflict to pull off at the best of times, but in the midst of a fast and furious storyline where believability becomes crucial, on reflection I realised the importance of this outstanding piece of writing.

I started this review by stating that I’d become aware of this author through other bloggers and decided that I couldn’t possibly catch up on the series which is why I took the plunge at book eight. I now revise that opinion, I will be seeking out the previous books and whilst it is unrealistic to imagine that I will read them all before the publication of book nine, I need to know more about Jack’s life before it became entangled with Sam’s.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little Brown Books who allowed me to read an ARC of Want You Gone. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author, Chris Brookmyre.

First Published UK: 20 April 2017
Publisher: Little Brown Books
No of Pages: 432
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Museum of You – Carys Bray

Contemporary Fiction 5*s
Contemporary Fiction

What a delightful read with a vein of honesty running through Clover Quinn and her father, Darren’s story.

Clover has just completed her first year at secondary school and Darren has conceded that she no longer needs to spend her days with their elderly neighbour Mrs Mackerel and so with the long summer holiday stretching before her Clover decides on a project. Inspired by a trip to Liverpool’s Maritime Museum and having a conversation with one of the curators, she is going to sort through all her Mum’s belongings and find out all about her. Then she is going to display her findings in the second bedroom, complete with cards explaining each item in the display.

Carys Bray has perfectly captured the mind, and voice, of a twelve year old who is just realised that friendship at secondary schools are more judgemental than those at primary, that her father who is trying his best, doesn’t get everything right and that other’s around her have challenges of their own, and just sometimes Clover can help. Clover also knows that there is a mother shaped hole in her life, and all Clover has is a couple of blurry photos, the tale of how she was born on the kitchen floor with dear Mrs Mackeral in attendance, and then… nothing.

So the project starts, interrupted by the necessary job of going to the allotment, delivering the produce to her Grandfather and Mrs Mackeral who checks up on the progress of the scarf that Clover is knitting for her father. Mrs Mackeral is the comedic element to what is an emotional tale, no matter how up-beat the presentation, and whose malapropisms had me chuckling as they are flung about with abandon always at high volume.

Clover’s first job is to sort through the jumble of items that have been flung into what was her mother’s bedroom, although the hoarding spreads throughout the house, this is the worst area. Having inched her way through envelopes containing promotions for holidays, towels and bed linen it is a while before Clover finds any real essence of her mother but she’s determined to do so.

The brilliance of this book is that all the elements come together in such a beautiful package; the writing is evocative, it was as easy to roll back the years to engage with Clover as it was to sympathise with Darren over the enormous responsibility of caring for Clover since she was just six weeks old. His determination to both love and protect her comes shining through and yet of course we know that placing Clover at the centre of his world has had a knock-on effect on the rest of his life. The author hasn’t however given us a saint, Darren gets irritated, particularly by Uncle Jim who suffers from depression, with his Dad who no longer leaves his home happy to research all sorts of things on his computer and with the occasional passenger on his job as a bus driver, unsurprising as this wasn’t Darren’s plan for his life – long ago he was going to be living a different life entirely, but things change. Added to that we have the wonderful characters, all of them from Mrs Mackeral who I initially disliked, maybe a throw-back to my own childhood which seemed over-run with characters like this, to Uncle Jim and Dagmar who is lost in her own way but teams up with Clover on her trips to the allotment. But what I loved most of all were the truisms that turn up in the most unlikely places throughout this book:

One of the surprising things about adulthood is how few people accompany you there and what a relief it is to occasionally talk to someone who knew the child you and the teenage you , someone who had seen all your versions, every update and stuck with you through all of it. That’s really something.

I was worried that this book may be too saccharine for my tastes, but evidently not, this isn’t one of those that obviously makes a play for your emotions but creeps up over you until you can’t help but want the best for each and every one of the people that grace the pages, even those whose stories can’t be changed. It is a very rare book indeed that makes me shed real tears – this book was one of them!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK who allowed me to read a copy of The Museum of You, this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 16 June 2016
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Before I Let You In – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

When we first meet Karen she is in her office, carefully designed to both put her client’s at her psychiatric post at their ease and able to focus on the session. Her newest client Jessica has come to her complete with the most basic of referrals, and seems hostile to the help on offer. Karen is unsettled but not overly flustered, after all this is her job, she is good at helping people and her two best friends Bea and Eleanor are her chief recipients, the three having been friends since their earliest days.

And Eleanor needs Karen’s help at the moment, she is mother to an eight year old and new born baby Noah and her previous organised life has started to fray not helped by the fact that her husband has to work late. It isn’t long before serious concerns are raised about Eleanor’s ability to cope. Karen is worried that her patient Jessica knows more about her friends than seems reasonable and she’s torn between keeping patient confidentiality and loyalty to her best friend.

Bea’s problems are not so much in the present, but the past which disturbs her equanimity but at least her and her elder sister Fran have managed to re-establish a sisterly bond which goes some way towards insulating Bea against her single status.

So here we have yet another psychological thriller based around friendship – I can’t believe that at the beginning of this year I pointed out this was an under-represented relationship in these types of novels and since then, I have read so many great novels utilising them. The friendship between the three women is long-standing and therefore the rules have been established over many years leaving the three women to enjoy each other’s company and be mutually supportive. One of the rules has been that Karen is not to psychoanalyse the other two, and especially not their partners but they do turn her for advice, after all, early on she took the role of the sensible one.

Of course apart from the three women and the odd patient, there are of course the other relationships the women have, including Karen’s partner who works away most weekend. All of these relationships are at risk as Karen’s worries over Jessica increase – all of a sudden she wonders how she is going to be able to protect her friends and those they hold dear to them.

As in the author’s debut novel How I Lost You, the tension is present more or less from the first page and when we read excerpts from interviews we are left in no doubt at all that something serious has happened, but to whom and why, well that takes quite a long while to work out. Jenny Blackhurst throws those red-herrings around like a careless fisherman making it fiendishly difficult to work out where the truth lies… With the three women giving different viewpoints during their narrations, it is easy to see where misunderstandings are allowed room to flourish, where secrets need to be kept and where suspicions should be listened too.

This was a fantastic read, the plotting superb, and despite me having an inkling where the fishy smell was strongest, there was plenty to ponder over, actions to be contemplated and of course trying to fix the pieces of the puzzle into a whole picture. If you enjoy a psychological thriller which features realistic characters and a strong storyline, you should definitely consider reading this one.

I received my copy of Before I Let You In from the publishers Headline and this honest opinion is my thank you to them for the opportunity to read such an engaging novel.

First Published UK eBook: 28 August 2016
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

I Found You – Lisa Jewell

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Contemporary Fiction

Lisa Jewell is an author you can absolutely depend upon to provide you with a story to lose yourself in and I Found You was no different. Those of you who think that this is shelved under light reading, you are wrong. There are dark aspects to this story which rival the best of the ‘grip-lit’ that adorn bookshop’s shelves the world over.

Cold and wet and staring out to see stands a man with no name. Well of course he has a name but he can’t remember anything. He hasn’t the faintest clue who he is or where he is. On the other side of the beach, behind a rain-streaked pane of glass stands Alice Lake. Alice is watching the man, all morning and into the afternoon when she is moved to take him a spare coat. Alice is a kind-hearted, if one who fate hasn’t handed her the best of luck. She has three children ranging from mid-teens to five-year old Ronnie and they all have different fathers but her luck has turned and she now has a good friend Derry in Ridinghouse Bay, East Yorkshire. Derry tells her to leave the man on the beach to his own devices, but Alice isn’t terribly good at following advice and she longs to know more about him.

In Surrey in a newly built flat Lily Monrose has lost her husband of three weeks. She has rung his mobile but there is no answer. Lily has only just landed in the country following their wedding in Ukraine and she knows no-one. With Carl missing Lily has to become resourceful if she’s to track down her husband.

These two storylines continue at parallel for part one of the book and then we slip back in time to 1993 and join a family holiday in Ridinghouse Bay. Coincidentally they are staying in the same house that Alice and her family inhabit in the present day. This turns out to be a holiday that no-one will forget.

This book, like so many of Lisa Jewell’s previous books captured me from the start. I wanted to know more about the man on the beach, I wanted to be free-spirited Alice’s friend, I put myself in Lily’s shoes and marvelled at her persistence and ingenuity in a foreign land and would happily have chatted to the family holidaying in Ridinghouse Bay. All the characters feel totally authentic and act in a realistic way which lends a great deal of depth to what turns into probably the darkest of all Lisa Jewell’s novels. I was gripped from the beginning and if there was a word for gripped more, then I was that from part two which resulted in total grippedness by the last pages of this book, which had me shedding a small tear or two for all that had gone before.

Reading this novel felt like meeting an old friend, or few; the writing style is ‘friendly’ and the first person present tense gives the feeling of immediacy which made me feel like I was at worst an onlooker although at times I really believed I was there as I came up with my own wild theories as to what was going on.

I Found You was published on 14 July 2016 by Random House UK who allowed me to read a copy of this book and this unbiased review is my thank you to them.

Publication Date UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

My favourite Lisa Jewell books:

click on the covers to read my reviews

Before I Met YouThe House We Grew Up InThe Making of UsThe Truth About Melody Browne

Lisa Jewell Novels
• I Found You (2016)
The Girls (2015)
The Third Wife (2014)
• The House We Grew Up In (2013)
• Before I Met You (2012)
• The Making Of Us (2011
• After The Party (2010)
• The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
• 31 Dream Street (2007)
• Vince and Joy (2005
• A Friend of the Family (2004)
• One Hit Wonder (2001)
• Thirtynothing (2000)
• Ralph’s Party (1999)

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica (Blog Tour)

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

Blog Tour Banner Don't You Cry

When Quinn Collins realises that her dependable flat-mate, Esther Vaughan is not at home where she left her the night before, nursing a minor ailment, she is at first far more confused than concerned. That Esther has left her phone behind and the door to the fire-escape open, causes her moments of disquiet which slowly build into anxiety that something bad has happened. With the Chicago police not moved to do a great deal Quinn starts playing detective and finds letters that seem to indicate that Esther wasn’t the friend Quinn thought she was.

In a small town in Michigan Alex Gallo is working as a dishwasher, left behind by his school friends as he had to work to keep a roof above his, and his father’s heads. Alex’s father is a drunk. One day a girl Alex names pearl walks into the diner where he works and Alex develops a huge crush on Pearl and starts to take a real interest in her life. She reciprocates his offer of friendship but who is she and where has she come from?

With Quinn narrating the section in Chicago, we learn as much about her as we do Esther and likewise in Michigan, Alex reveals so much about his past, his present and his future which seems unrelentingly bleak. A boy with a brain but no prospects and doing odd-jobs for a woman with disabling agoraphobia; playing cards with her is the highlight of his week.

This is a far slower paced book than Mary Kubica’s previous two novels, but despite not being action-packed as the story unfolds the underlying darkness gradually comes into focus but not so much so that I had any clear idea what was ultimately going to be revealed. This is one of those books that should be held up of a good example of how to write a book that is compelling reading without being full of fancy techniques or non-stop action. I really wanted to find out what was behind Esther’s disappearance and whether Quinn’s suspicions were going to prove to be true. Mary Kubica is a master at making you look in one direction for clues and certainties and then sneaking up behind you to present an alternate possibility and I really do love it when a book convincingly deceives me.

When the storyline is light on action you do need solid characters to hold the reader’s interest and the people living amongst these pages were certainly convincing. The shades of their personalities came through in their own doubts; neither Alex nor Quinn were blessed with over-confidence and the confusion about the situations they found themselves in was only too believable. Thankfully despite the two young adults narration it was far from over-burdened with navel-gazing instead we see most of this from the way they interact with others around them.

As you know I don’t usually say much about the ending – this one was convincing and definitely borne out of the pages which preceded it or in other words, the clues were there; albeit buried! This is Mary Kubica’s third book and I was exceptionally impressed by the previous two; The Good Girl and Pretty Baby and once again the author has shown how versatile a writer she is, a different type of psychological thriller, a different structure and yet another great read. Mary Kubica is firmly on my list of must-read authors.

I was delighted to receive a copy of Don’t You Cry from the publishers Harlequin, this unbiased review is my thank you to them. Don’t You Cry was published on 19 May 2016.

I’m on the organised blog tour for Don’t You Cry today so if you want to find out more do go and visit the other posts!

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

Love You Dead – Peter James

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

Well Peter James would have to do something pretty dire to get less than five stars from me; I love this series featuring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace which is now up to book number twelve, and I have been a faithful follower ever since 2005 when Dead Simple was published! So did he thrill me? Yes he did! Although that’s not too say that I didn’t have some moments of concern as it took quite a while for my favourite policeman to take centre stage!

The first section of the book follows the exploits of Jodie Bentley, this isn’t a spoiler she tells us herself, more or less straightaway, that she is following the scent of money and the way she has chosen, involves extracting it from wealthy men. I’m not sure whether I was supposed to admire her or pity her, but pretty early on I took against her despite her back story. I honestly couldn’t really get into her psyche so had to take her at face value, and that face may have been pretty but it disguised a far from pretty nature. Peter James has created a character we can love to hate, one which injects a fair amount of fun as I tried to predict what schemes she would come up with next to get the money she wants! I think this is the first contemporary crime fiction I’ve read that features a ‘black widow’ and I have to say it was a refreshing change to have a female villain.

Anyway our Jodie predictably gets herself tangled up in some heavy nastiness which involves a character from the previous book, one who our Roy Grace would very much to have a bit of a chat with, wink, wink!! Peter James has a fantastic knack of layering these novels with different strands but never neglecting the central one, a device that makes for a very satisfying read, particularly when they diverge into one story, as in this case. This is a solid read that has a bit of everything for everyone; a realistic look at the modern police force (good and bad), sentimental parts, thrilling scenes and reflective sections, all centred around a great plot which is paced to perfection. Even when the book was over and I wonder what comes next I was able to wind down with the glossary which gives details of ranks, badges, slang and suchlike for the real nerdy readers, like me. Where this one differs from the more traditional police procedural is that the reader knows what’s going on and we take on the role of the observer as Roy Grace and his team try to figure it all out.

Roy Grace is happy, so happy he’s worried that everything is going to go wrong for him so it isn’t a great surprise that something does, or several things, not least his Chief Inspector and that shadow from the past, his missing wife Sandy! The knowledge needed for Roy Grace to keep ahead of the criminals in this book is exceptionally specialist and had me cringing in a different way to normal.

Although as in the rest of the series home is Brighton, in this book there is a bit of travel thrown in with skiing in Europe, hotels in the US and even a cruise there is plenty of variety. We also get a guided tour of how Brighton used to look before it became the ‘cool’ place to be it is now! See Peter James really does deliver something for everyone so it really doesn’t surprise me that these books have sold over seventeen million copies worldwide. After all they have a great mix of characters, one of my favourites gets a central role in this book, and the ever dependable and fundamentally decent Roy Grace leads the way as a great balance to the nastier villains. They also all share the assured writing which is strongly underpinned by complex plotting which reaches a satisfying conclusion. For readers who even when reading a series want to feel they understand everything, this book will not disappoint you.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Midas PR who managed to get this book to me in time for me to read and review it for publication day of today, 19 May 2016, this review is my unbiased thanks to them. Love You Dead is published by Macmillan and the back of the book jacket has a handy reminder of all Peter James’s books in case you are missing any from your collection!

Back of Love you dead

Roy Grace Series in order
Dead Simple
Looking Good Dead
Not Dead Enough
Dead Man’s Footsteps
Dead Tomorrow
Dead Like You
Dead Man’s Grip
Not Dead Yet
Dead Man’s Time
Want You Dead
You Are Dead
Love You Dead

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Insanity of Murder – Felicity Young

Historical Crime 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction

Set in the early twentieth century this series featuring the fictional character, Dr Dody McCleland, who works under the forensic scientist Bernard Spilsbury. The Insanity of Murder is set in 1913, with war already looming on the horizon and the cause for women to be allowed more say over their own lives, and most importantly to gain the right to vote were reported in the news.

This mystery starts with Dody’s sister Florence setting a bomb at the Necropolis railway station (something that I’d never heard of before) in London. This railway station was built in Waterloo to transport the dead to Kent for burial to ease the overcrowding of London’s cemeteries. Florence is working on behalf of the militant suffragettes as this faction worked hard to bring their cause to the attention of parliament. This method chosen did sound unnecessarily brutal, particularly as unsurprisingly innocent people got caught up in the inevitable blast. Dody is called to help out with checking the dead bodies which due to the nature of the station had to be examined to ensure that their death hadn’t been a result of the station.

Inspector Matthew Pike with whom Dody is having a romantic relationship with, is on the trail to find the perpetrators of the bombing and Dody quickly finds herself anxious to protect her sister from his detection despite the moral dilemma that causes her distress. Dody doesn’t want her sister to be subject to force-feeding (the authority’s response to the suffragette’s hunger strikes) after the nightmares it had caused the first time Florence was imprisoned.

The book gives the reader an excellent depiction of the lives of women in institutions, including asylums at the time which I find fascinating, especially as the author takes a fully rounded view of the time including the contemporary feelings of the time about the suffragettes. Another aspect of this story is the way it illustrates that the class you were born into defined the treatment that you received, in society as well as in institutions, should you be unfortunate enough to end up in one.

As interesting as all this is the story couldn’t exist without the mystery which is cleverly linked to characters impacted by the explosion. There is a missing woman, a suspected suicide and some shady goings on at a ‘rest-home’. With Dody and Florence’s help Pike’s investigation takes a sinister and dangerous turn, although of course the setting of the bomb was kept strictly between the two women.

I have really taken to the character development of both Dody and Pike which has occurred since the first book, both of whom come across as fully rounded people. The secondary characters provide the perfect backdrop to the mystery with a full-range of characters, some with good intentions, others less so. Some of the characters from this period make an appearance as do some of the events, the death of Emily Dickinson who was killed by Kind George V’s horse at the Derby whilst trying to disturb the race, probably by affixing a flag in the distinctive colours of the Women’s Political and Social Union to the horse’s bridle.

Sadly I haven’t yet got around to reading the second and third book in this series but this is something I am going to rectify without (hopefully) too much further delay because the mixture of historical facts and mystery are not only perfectly combined but incredibly well-balanced. There is never the feeling that the research has been dumped onto the page and in fact some aspects, including those about the necropolis railway station prompted me to do a little fact-finding of my own as it had piqued my interest.

I’d like to thank the publishers HarperCollins Australia who allowed me to have a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. The Insanity of Murder was published on 1 August 2015.

Books in the Dr Dody McCleland Mysteries

The Anatomy of Death
Antidote to Murder
The Scent of Murder
The Insanity of Murder

More about Bernard Spilsbury, Dody’s boss can be read in The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robbins

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

You Belong To Me – Samantha Hayes

Psychological Thriller 2*'s
Psychological Thriller

This is the third book in the series featuring DI Lorraine Fisher, the first the excellent Until You’re Mine which was followed by Before You Die.

In this outing the DI is stressed out, self-medicating with codeine and not coping, so much so that her husband Andy is bought in to give direction on her latest case of a suspected serial killer after women who have recently complained of being stalked found dead. Lorraine Fisher’s sense of failing is compounded by the fact that she had advised the first victim that there was nothing she could do without more details.

In another strand of the story Isabel is in India when she receives word that her parents have been killed in a car crash, despite her obvious reluctance she is forced to return to England to deal with matters. We know Isobel is scared of something but we are not sure what…. But it’s all ok there is a friendly face in the form of Ben who helps her to arrange her flight home, and then offers her a place to stay. Some might say that if you were that scared that you’d disappeared to another continent that you might not be so willing to trust a stranger but not Isobel, she’s wary but feels she has no options open to her.

To be honest I found this book verging on the ridiculous in terms of plot, I couldn’t invest in either the DI or Isobel as both made crashingly stupid decisions time and time again which just served to aggravate me. I understand that this is fiction and some suspension of belief is required but this plot stretched my credulity to extremes not warranted, especially in view of the fact that this book had a great premise. However as the book progressed, the credulity snapped! There seems to be a trend to put massive twists into each and every psychological thriller and where I am full of praise for those who insert these seamlessly; badly done it leaves this reader feeling at best cheated and at worst intensely irritated by a total change of direction which doesn’t seem to connect to what has been written before, sadly any twists in this book fell into the latter category.

The realism aside there weren’t any characters I really believed in, DI Fisher was morose and had morphed from the competent officer we first met in Until You’re Mine to a scatty mess which was a shame, if she could have carried out the investigation she did within the team setting I think it would have balanced out some of the unrealistic elements, instead everyone in this book is full of angst of some description or another.

I’ve been a fan of Samantha Hayes for years however I was doubtful about the plot in Before You Die and even more so with this one. If you haven’t read some of her earlier works I’d suggest you start there where she let her writing stand up for itself without trying to add too many bells and whistles which in my opinion are out of tune.
I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for allowing me to read this book which will be published today, 12 March 2015.

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 …

Before You Die – It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.

Read a synopsis of the first five books here

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

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly

Psychological Thriller 5*'s

Psychological Thriller

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.