Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Secrets She Keeps – Michael Robotham

Psychological Thriller
4*s

This is one of those psychological thrillers that is designed to keep you on your toes with the story of two pregnant women.

Agatha is working in the local supermarket when she spies one of the customers Meghan meeting with the other local mothers, ones like her who go to yoga and meet for coffee. Meghan is also pregnant and it looks like their due dates are similar.

Agatha wants Meghan’s life and she soon engineers a situation so that they can bond over their upcoming new arrivals, but Meghan’s life isn’t quite what Agatha perceives it to be… and maybe Agatha is becoming a little too obsessed for both of their sakes.

The novel employs the dual-narrative device with great success giving the reader the ability to see behind the doors of both women’s lives and raising the tension to sometimes unbearable levels which meant this reader spent nearly the whole duration of the book on the edge of her seat.

With the two women coming from entirely different backgrounds and approaching their lives in very different ways it is hard to see how a friendship would ever be possible, but that doesn’t take into account Agatha’s devious nature, when she wants something, she will go for it. The fact that Meghan has become adept at presenting a mask to the world results in some preconceptions that those around her are only too willing to accept as the truth. The success of this book is that more than one character has a secret but which one will cause the most devastating results?

Michael Robotham has shown his skill at creating characters we should dislike but given them enough humanity that the result was I felt a measure of compassion for them. This takes this psychological thriller away from the realms of the deeply unpalatable character doing crazy things and the reader’s thrill is in seeing how bad things can get; In The Secrets She Keeps, even when it was obvious that the story wasn’t heading to a good place, I almost wanted it all to turn out all right, for everyone. This is in part to the flaws in the secondary characters too, no one in this book is saintly but nor are they outright sinners, which gives depth to what is undoubtedly a compulsive read.

This book could also be read as a modern fable so strong is the deadly sin of envy running through each and every page. Agatha thinks that because Meghan has a handsome husband, a beautiful child, a big house and can shop without worrying about what she spends that her life is more successful than hers where she resents taking her shop overall home to wash, preferring to hide it in the storeroom away from the eyes of the disagreeable owner. By being privy to Meghan’s thoughts we know that Agatha’s assessment of her life isn’t quite true and in the end Meghan realises exactly what matters most to her.

I was grateful to receive a review copy of The Secrets She Keeps from the publishers Sphere via NetGalley and this unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author for a fabulous read.

First Published UK: 11 July 2017
Publisher: Sphere
No of Pages:  448
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Adversary – Emmanuel Carrère

Non-Fiction
4*s

In line with my exploration of the various forms that true-crime books are served up for consumption I was delighted to receive a copy of this book from fellow blogger damppebbles, especially as I found it to be one of the most disturbing books I’ve read for a long time. Not because the crimes are any more or less horrific than some of the others I’ve explored but because the story is so well told by Emmanuel Carrère that I kept forgetting this wasn’t fiction and so found myself horrified all over again when I remembered, this really did happen.

Jean-Claude Romand was convicted for killing his wife, two children and his parents in separate and seemingly well thought-out attacks, he then set fire to his house after taking some pills. Jean-Claude was soon rescued by the local fire service and questioned by the police. The murders took place in January 1993 and Emmaunel Jean-Claude Romand started corresponding with the murderer after his conviction in 1996, the results are the Adversary.

Not only is this a chilling crime, the root of it is bizarre as the need to kill his family stems from a lie Jean-Claude told when he was still a teenager, engaged in a medical degree and a second year exam which he never sat. From that moment on, he acted to friends and family as if he had passed his degree and was therefore a qualified doctor, so sought after that by the time of the murders he was purportedly a researcher for the World Health Organisation (the WHO), but it was all lies. Obviously, since his days were spent pretending to work, visiting libraries and walking, he needed some hard cash and the second strand of his deception was to encourage his friends and family to invest in hedge funds and foreign ventures. This supplemented his wife’s salary and the pair had the kind of lifestyle others would envy.

The construct of this true-crime book is as if it were a novel which makes it incredibly readable, it starts with the killer sentence that can’t help but grab your attention:

On the Saturday morning of January 9, 1993, while Jean-Claude Romand was killing his wife and children, I was with mine in a parent-teacher meeting…’

From here the back story of Jean-Claude is painstakingly built up and the author illustrates his struggle to stay objective which works for the reader as you get a feel of the pull of the lies this criminal can tell whilst being seemingly plausible and the more worthy outcome of our author not giving him the kudos he so obviously craves. It’s fascinating to see the various change in presentation the author uses, earlier in the book there are some explanations about the character, some attempts to understand his actions until later more of the points which the author presents starkly on the page and then stands back and lets the reader join the dots themselves.

This is a short book but it certainly doesn’t feel rushed, in fact I felt that if we had heard much more about the subject, a killer and a con man, it would have felt that we were feeding his narcissism even more than the book’s publication has probably already done. A fascinating exploration of this French criminal that I’d never heard of, and a story that sounds more unbelievable than much of the crime fiction I read.

First Published UK: 6 July 2017
Publisher: Vintage
No of Pages: 208
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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

The Last Thread – Ray Britain

Crime Fiction
5*s

I couldn’t help but be intrigued when I was contacted by Ray Britain to see if I would be interested in reading his book with a view to writing a review, not least because this is a book written by someone who has been on the front-line of policing. You can read my interview with Ray Britain here. That’s not to say I didn’t approach the book with some degree of trepidation as the author was at pains to stress that his novel would reflect real-life policing and I wondered if the reality would quash the exciting storylines, after all most of us realise that what we see on TV and read in some (not all) novels can’t possibly reflect the more painstaking aspects of policing in modern Britain. I needn’t have worried at all, the author has the mix of reality and fictional plotting perfectly balanced and the knowledge that this could be ‘real’ made the resulting read more meaningful.

Our protagonist is DCI Doug Stirling and we first meet him on top of a bridge working in a voluntary role negotiating with a youngster who is about to commit suicide. Not the early damp start to the day that anyone would enjoy and yet the author had me in the moment from the first page willing Doug to be able to save a young life. It’s not to be and we see the stress the DCI is under especially when the Police Complaints Commission become involved in what seems like a never-ending investigation into what happened on the fateful day. Doug tries to put it behind him and due to a lack of professional officers he is working on the gruesome death of a man found murdered in a burnt out car but ordered to keep a low-profile while he’s under investigation. This is where the story really hots up and the mystery thickens by the minute, especially when a firm identification of the victim is made.

The Last Thread is an outstanding debut with an exceptional plot which is complex yet not so much so that I ever lost any of the threads, let alone the last one! The characters are well-rounded, perhaps a little too earnest at times but of course they are modelled on those who are dedicated to the job and not the detectives of old with a permanent pint in their hand and a life full of angst to forget. There are a couple of the rottener types of detectives to keep the book spiced up and the author also provides some of the office banter that keeps far less intellectually puzzling working lives turning up and down the country.

Best of all for me is this book is set in Worcestershire, something I was unaware of when I agreed to read it and as those of you who follow this blog know, I love reading books set in places I’m familiar with and my brother lives in Worcester so this book fully qualifies, and passes the test as I could easily recognise some of the settings described so well by the author.

The Last Thread was a great read, I’m delighted to note that the title implies that Doug Stirling will be returning, soon I hope as a book written from someone who has lived the life but can also tell a cracking good tale is just what this crime lover needs.

First Published UK: 17 September 2017
Publisher: Ray Britain
No of Pages: 536
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death in the Stars – Frances Brody

Crime Fiction
4*s

Set at the time of the solar eclipse in 1927 with a cast of variety hall entertainers we are treated to a splendid mystery of the death of one of their number. Coming close on the tails of two other accidents Kate Shackleton has the job of unravelling the truth.

This is only the second of the Kate Shackleton series I’ve read, this episode being number nine in the series, but so well-drawn are the key characters that I feel I already ‘know’ them well. Kate is a business-like as usual ably supported by former policeman Jim Sykes and her housekeeper cum investigator, Mrs Sugden. Kate is ahead of her times in running her own PI business but not so far out of it that she comes across as unrealistic, there is no doubting that we are in the 1920s.

With show business being the backdrop to this novel we are treated to fabulous singers, ventriloquists, dancers, comics and acrobats all performing under the watchful eye of Trotter Brockett the man in charge of the whole shebang. Being of a cautious nature when Selina the star of the show is invited to watch the eclipse at Giggleswick School in Yorkshire he gives his permission on the proviso that she is back in time for a rest before the evening show. Selina invites her co-entertainer Billy Moffatt to accompany her and asks Kate to arrange transport, by helicopter no less. Selina is from an Italian family who are big in the ice-cream business and is a fantastic singer drawing crowds to the kind of show that is beginning to feel the threat of the moving picture especially as rumours about that soon the pictures will be accompanied by sound. Anyway the helicopter ride to Giggleswick is to follow a party at Selina’s house which is full of showbiz glamour and the trio joined by journalist who are attending to write a piece and to take pictures of the momentous occasion set off. Sadly tragedy strikes and Kate is employed to find out what happened, and of course why.

Although this is definitely at the cosy end of the crime fiction genre, it isn’t all lightness, jokes and fluff. The historical details set this apart with an appearance in this book of soldiers who fought in WWI and the injuries physical and mental that they returned with. But don’t fear not, there is a solid mystery, complete with the obligatory red-herrings to keep the reader entertained as Kate turns down blind-alleys in a bid to find out if the suspicious death that occurred on her watch was murder or not.

With more than a nod to the Golden Age writers the ending is spot-on in its execution with all the panache you’d expect from a showbiz tale which gave this reader no end of satisfaction even though, for once, I’d worked out (or luckily guessed) which of the many colourful characters should be in the hot seat for thorough questioning.

I was very grateful to receive a copy of Death in the Stars from the publishers Little Brown and this review is my unbiased thanks to them and to Frances Brody for thoroughly entertaining me with her latest Kate Shackleton story.

First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Little Brown 
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

The Kate Shackleton Series

Dying In The Wool: 2009
A Medal For Murder: 2009
Murder In The Afternoon: 2012
A Woman Unknown: 2013
Murder on a Summer’s Day 2013
Death of an Avid Reader 2014
A Death in the Dales 2015
Death at the Seaside 2016
Death in the Stars 2017

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

Silent Voices – Ann Cleeves

Crime Fiction
4*s

Having returned to the Vera series with Silent Voices after far too long a break I welcomed this unattractive, blunt and uncompromising woman into my life not in any small part due to her brilliant detection skills.

The victim in this book is a social worker, found dead in a sauna by our very own Vera, yes an unlikely habitat for our steely detective, but even Vera realises she is mortal and had taken the advice to get some exercise and swimming appealed the most.

Vera is very much hoping that Jenny Lister died of natural causes but it isn’t to be and I chuckled to watch her brazen it out to her colleagues who were called to the scene to investigate the murder, not that they’d let even the merest whisper of surprise escape their lips in front of the formidable Detective Inspector.

Ann Cleeves gives us a puzzle with plenty of suspects, nearly everyone who appears could be viewed with suspicion, whilst managing to be thoroughly entertaining at the same time. With characters to become involved with, not least Vera’s sidekick, Joe Ashworth who finds Vera’s demands are in direct conflict with those of his wife during the course of this book this really does fit the bill as a modern police procedural. The sub-genre is one where I firmly believe the key investigator, in this instance Vera, needs to move the investigation along, despite real-life, this isn’t really a team sport and certainly not easy when the clues seem to point in different directions. Vera is the power behind the investigation without relegating her colleagues to idiots, they are just don’t shine quite as brightly as she does! The other secret of a success in this genre is to ensure the reader is invested in the investigation and the asides to the rest of the team are inserted just often enough to make sure that everything is explained well without ever entering that dangerous whiff of being patronising.

I like my crime books to have some humour and Vera’s very dry variety fits the backdrop of murder incredibly well with the perspective changing from third person to first so that we ‘hear’ Vera’s opinions in the raw so to speak, as well as watch others jump to attention to do her bidding, she really is an imposing character. I’m also a fan of probing the stories behind the headlines and at the time of publication of Silent Voices, there were lots of stories in the UK papers about Social Workers and their perceived failings. The author is thereby allowing the readers to feel they had their finger on the pulse of the debate whilst also encouraging a look at the issues from a number of viewpoints, not distilled into a bald headline which can’t ever take in the complexities of the whole issue.

One of the biggest draws of this particular lead character is her undisguised love of the drama of a murder investigation which really pulls the story forwards and how refreshing to have a Detective inspector who isn’t so hung up on the politics of the force that she is afraid to take risky decisions. The plot is unbelievably tangled with the reader needing to concentrate almost as much as Vera on the minutiae of information to be even within a whisker of a chance of solving the crime, and it is brilliantly executed – no saggy middle for Vera Stanhope, well not in the book although I would imagine stumbling across a dead body in the sauna is probably gives her just the excuse she wants to hang up her swimsuit!

I was delighted to read Silent Voices as my twenty-fifth read in the Mount TBR challenge, especially as I realised that I originally purchased this book way back in May 2012! The bonus is that I am lagging behind having just read number four in the series so have four more to enjoy to catch up!

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First Published UK: 4 February 2011
Publisher: Macmillan
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie – David Hastings – Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017

Non-Ficiton
4*s

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017 and even more excited when the book I was asked to review was one in the true crime genre, one that I have been exploring with a passion over the last few months.

David Hastings takes us back to 1880 New Zealand when a young woman, Mary Dobie was found lying dead under a flax bush near where she had been walking, possibly finding a place to sketch, as she was a talented artist one who had provided some illustrations for her brother’s book about ferns.

As I have found in so many books in this genre, the book doesn’t just focus on the investigation into the murder itself but explores the life of the victim, and her family who were on a three-year trip to New Zealand from England, and puts the death into the context of the social history and politics of the time and place, the latter I knew very little about.

Mary had travelled to New Zealand on a boat with her sister Bertha and her mother Ellen and we hear about the trip in part from the notebook that the two sisters wrote and drew in on the long trip. These entries are fascinating as neither sister behaves in quite the way we expect young Englishwomen to behave in the Victorian age. They were curious women, eager to learn about life and so on the ship they learnt about the sails and navigation from the crew crossing the social barriers normally in place. This was important in the context of the crime itself, not for the purpose of stating that Mary had put herself in the face of danger but more to give a real feel of the woman she was, outgoing and confident with a range of experiences that rival what most women of her generation would have experienced.

By the time of the murder Ellen and Mary were in Opunake on the Taranaki coast area to say goodbye to Bertha who had married during their extensive trip which also took in Samoa and Fiji. The Taranaki area was in a state of tension by this time, facts that David Hastings explains in detail and far more clearly than I can summarise here, between the settlers and the Maoris. The settlers had staked a claim to the land some twenty years previously but only more recently had started building roads carving up the area causing the Maoris to retaliate with their own non-violent protests. Both sides feared the next move the other may make and it was against this background that Mary was murdered. The timing of the murder was key and for a while it wasn’t clear whether the crime was committed by a Maori or a Pakeha let alone whether the motive was robbery, rape or a political act.

The author does a fabulous job of explaining all of the details of the political background, the characters of those involved and in the end taking us through the trial and the (mis)use that was made of Mary Dobie’s death after the event by those in power.

I read my copy of The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie in eBook format and would advise those of you who like the sound of this book to buy the physical copy as there are many wonderful pictures, those drawn by the Dobie sisters as well as some photographs which would be better seen alongside the text as unfortunately I have yet to master the flicking backwards and forwards to a satisfactory degree on my kindle.

I applaud the author for making the politics of the area so easily understood, and for bringing to life an unfamiliar region to his readers. This book held my attention throughout the voyage, the social history explored during the family’s travels and the trial itself. A very welcome addition to my true crime reading indeed.

First Published UK: 30 October 2015
Publisher: Auckland University Press
No of Pages:  240
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t miss out on the rest of the blog tour – there are some fantastic books, and blogs, to discover!

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

BEST CRIME NOVEL
• Pancake Money by Finn Bell
• Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre)
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• Marshall’s Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
• Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
• The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Days are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing)

BEST NON FICTION
• In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books)
• The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
• Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan Publishing)
• The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP)
• Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing)

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

My Last Confession – Helen FitzGerald

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I love the way Helen FitzGerald tackles widely different subjects within her writing of psychological thrillers and in My Last Confession, we have a newly appointed Probation Officer and one of her ‘clients’, a murderer.

Krissie is a single mum and she’s moved in with Robbie – I believe these two characters appeared in the author’s debut novel Dead Lovely, which I haven’t read but may explain why some of the details about how they came to be together seemed a little illusive. She uses her previous skills working with child protection and move into supervising adult offenders.

Jeremy is one of Krissie’s cases, in prison for murder, although a conviction which Krissie begins to doubt whether he has been wrongly convicted and so she turns detective. Of course Jeremy is only one prisoner who makes up Krissie’s workload and so we have a number of characters to get to know while Krissie battles with her job and her son who steals the show more than once.

Krissie is a mass of contradictions, on the one hard a caring woman, one who is trying to build a family but she also does some incredibly stupid things over the course of the book. There were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into her, after all this is supposed to be an educated woman but obviously one whose heart rules her head. At times, despite playing detective with gusto, I had to despair at Krissie’s inability to read the clues given to her – maybe she needs to read a few more crime fiction novels to give her some pointers.

The book really does beg you to sit up and take notice with some attention grabbing scenes. For those of a nervous disposition, there are some racy scenes too. Having read four other books by this author I think perhaps the more subtle look at modern life worked slightly better for me. Those themes are ever-present in this book, particularly the Glasgow setting which is terrifically well created. Although I’ve not worked in a prison or in any type of related position, the work-place scenes are easily transposed to anyone who has colleagues and they had me chuckling away frequently.

There were some bizarre scenes though which I didn’t really quite work for me but it really was worth persevering because the second half of the book is exceptionally gripping with an ending which was perfectly fitting.

This is an ideal book if you want to read something a little bit different, a bit of crime, a little bit of women’s fiction, a few racy scenes and a whole dollop of fun. This is the ideal lighter type of reading, one that should be approached with a sense of irony which would iron out the earlier scenes that had me slightly confused.

My Last Confession
was my twenty-fourth read in my Mount TBR Challenge having been purchased in November 2016.

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First Published UK: 25 April 2011
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages:  275
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Great Reads by Helen FitzGerald

Bloody Woman
The Cry
The Exit
Viral

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

Past Tense – Margot Kinberg

Crime Fiction
4*s

Tiltton University is not the quiet place of learning all the staff and students could hope for when the construction workers move in to build a new performing arts centre. And then work stops because there is something buried in the site that ruined everyone’s day.

Kramer walked slowly in the direction Stephens had indicated. Then he stopped short. His face drained of colour and he gulped twice. He could see it clearly — a bone sticking up out of the dirt he’d been preparing to move.

Tilton police detectives Donna Crandall and her partner Ron Zuniga are called to the scene and it isn’t long before the bones are sent off to be dated. The result is that the skeleton is that of a young man, and he died some forty years ago but he didn’t bury himself so it must be murder but how on earth do you go about investigating a crime that old?

Never fear because the detectives have Joel Williams, The Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Tilton University, a former detective now academic, is only too willing to use his skills to assist. Before long the Police and the campus sleuth have a name; Bryan Roades a twenty year old who went missing in the 70s. Could his determination to emulate his heroes in the investigative journalism world on the campus newspaper have led to someone wanting him out of the way?

This is my first Joel Williams story although this is actually Margot Kinberg’s third book in the series featuring the academic detective and I’m pleased to report Past Tense reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. The crime aspect was one of my favourite tropes; I love it when those who commit a crime think they are home and dry only for them to be caught years after the fact. This is particularly true in this novel as the article Brian Roades was working on was about women’s lib and of course attitudes have changed dramatically in the past forty years, so I suspect if anything the uncovering of the truth had far more impact than it may have done if he’d been allowed to write his story back then, but that of course is mere speculation on my part!

Margot Kinberg structures the novel well always keeping the mystery in clear line of sight and thankfully her investigative professor is a normal man, without angst and is somewhat self-effacing which gives the book a less aggressive feel than some modern crime novels, not that life as part of the campus staff is without its petty rivalries, this is no cosy mystery! I always imagine life in academia to be somewhat rarefied, however with this book written by someone living that life, I’ve been totally disabused of that opinion but it is an illusion shattered by some great characters and some fabulous dialogue that helped establish the setting, and opinions, for the modern angle of the crime and its discovery as well as giving enough references to take us back twenty years to the heart of the crime.

I have been a long-time reader, and admirer of Margot’s blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… and I have to admit to being slightly apprehensive about read this book – what if I didn’t like it? But not to fear, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, the plotting and the writing style, a book without gratuitous violence but not so sanitised that it felt too sugary for this crime loving reader. I will definitely be keeping up with Joel in the future and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Tilton University.

Past Tense was my seventeenth read in the Mount TBR challenge and I’m pleased to announce is my last review of the backlog dating from June!

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First Published UK: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Grey Cells Press
No of Pages:  428
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

She Did It – Mel Sherratt

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Hello book lovers Mel Sherratt has delivered her latest book, She Did It, which is not only a brilliant psychological thriller but also is also set in the world of book publicity, and yes the trusty book blogger gets more than one mention!

Tamara is the classic poor little rich girl. Despite on the surface having all the connections and the family money she feels a bit of a failure especially as her three siblings have done what was expected of them, settled down to a good career or motherhood. Not Tamara, she has just launched her own PR firm and is knuckling down to win a contract to deliver the PR for a new debut novelist. But she has too many tasks to complete and advertises for an assistant.

Esther’s moment is here, she attends the interview and gets the job. She’s soon ensconced in Tamara’s dining room helping her pull together her presentation to win the contract. A contract that is badly needed as Tamara, despite her nice clothes, is living a pretty much hand to mouth existence unwilling to go to her parents and beg for money.
Both of the main characters have secrets and neither are quite what they appear but at the beginning they forge a relationship albeit with an obvious power imbalance and a more shadowy version which tips the power in the other direction. Mel Sherratt has really got a feel for her characters and even though it is obvious quite soon who we should be wary of, there is just enough detail to stop this developing into full-blown dislike. Instead I spent much of this book hoping that the journey I feared we were on would be re-routed.

With a very British outing to the races, expensive dresses and a book launch mixed in with dangerous weapons and drugs, this really was a story of two very different lives brought together to produce a thrilling read.

I have to admit I’ve drawn back from overly dramatic psychological thrillers lately but this is up there with the best in the ‘ooh I just can’t put this down’ so mesmerised by the power-struggle disguised as friendship and awaiting the awful events that were obviously on route to the devastating train-wreck which was going to occur. Quite what twists and turns we would hurtle around on the way was impossible to predict (I had to squint through one eye to read most of them).

The narrative of the book does shift backwards and forwards with both main characters detailing not only their plans but their past to reveal more about them. As I said earlier, this isn’t a book where the reader looks on with amazement while fundamentally dislikeable characters wreak destruction, there was far more subtlety to She Did It which added a layer of integrity to the storyline. I’m just hoping that Mel’s publication day, today, doesn’t have the same hazards particularly as I was one of the very lucky readers chosen to read the book before release day.

If you want one of those compulsive reads that so many of us are addicted to, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book and enjoy the journey!

First Published UK: 19 September 2017
Publisher: Blood Red Books
No. of Pages: 255
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

White Bodies – Jane Robins

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I can’t deny I was excited to hear that Jane Robins whose non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath and The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams  I thoroughly enjoyed and which sit proudly on my bookshelf, was writing a psychological thriller. I also can’t deny that I am reading far fewer books in this genre, because many fail to delight me in the way that they once did. But boy did this one work. The plot was tight, the writing engaging and the characters were weird enough to be chilling but normal enough to be believable.

Callie and Tilda are twenty-seven year old twins with Tilda being the more outgoing and outwardly successful of the two, Callie somewhat hampered by an obsessive nature who dwells on every conversation, every look and every perceived slight to the nth degree. It is Callie that waits for invitations for movie nights with her sister but rarely meets up with Tilda’s fun-loving friends. So imagine her excitement when Tilda introduces her to her new man, Felix. But Callie’s overwhelming need to make sure her twin is safe means that she is on her guard.

It isn’t long before Callie hears and sees things that convince her that Tilda is in an abusive relationship and she trawls an on-line forum, obsessively, for confirmation and advice.

This is one of the creepiest psychological thrillers I have ever read. The premise is similar to many others in the genre – these are not people on the whole that you’d want to spend any length of time with, but there are so many aspects of their behaviour that you will have come across in your friends, family or colleagues that all the way through, I had a feeling that this could be true. This genre really does work best when you believe – a bit like fairies – and because it feels so real, as Callie goes searching for clues, it is impossible to separate the truth from the fiction. Added to that the bizarre but sadly only too believable on-line tales that draw Callie into endless discussions about abusive men, the story becomes not only claustrophobic but has a hue of ghastly inevitability.

White Bodies was absolutely compelling, it was one of those wonderful books which from the moment I read the first page I was sure I would enjoy. I don’t know what it is that makes some books far more ‘readable’ than others but this was one of them. What I do know is that this book is solidly underpinned with brilliant writing. Since childhood, I have been drawn to stories about twins, although I sincerely hope that some aspects of twin behaviour, mentioned in this book were dreamt up in Jane Robins’ imagination! Of course there are twists, that is what the genre is all about, but the author hasn’t gone all out to do a complete about face, the book hanging solidly together from the first to the last page and the book doesn’t rely on the twists for a great reading experience, there is much more to enjoy!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Touchstone who granted my wish to read White Bodies which will be published in the US on 19 September 2017. UK readers apparently have to wait until after Christmas to read this book, which is somewhat bizarre as the author is British and the book is firmly set in the UK. Anyway despite the wait, if you enjoy a good psychological thriller, and live in the UK, mark this one down as To Be Read and if you are in the US please note your cover is different to the one above – enjoy!

First Published UK: 28 December 2017
Publisher: HQ
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US