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

Watching You – Lisa Jewell

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Lisa Jewell just goes from strength to strength as she serves up different scenarios with a whole cast of different characters in this her sixteenth novel and I for one was hooked from page one, where there is out and out darkness in the form of a body on a kitchen floor. The police are in attendance and an investigation is opened.

First of all the author paints us a picture of perfection, a group of colourful houses perched on a hill, the type of house that Joey (Josephine) has always wanted to live in but that seemed unlikely after four years working in Ibiza, and now she’s home with her new husband Alfie in tow. Fortunately her older brother Jack and his pregnant wife Rebecca live in the cobalt coloured house in Melville Heights and her and Alfie had moved in while they sorted out where there life was going next.

Lisa Jewell’s latter books have all had some level of darkness about them but this one hurtles headlong into the undeniable thriller territory. After listening to Joey describing her life to her mum at her grave, we are launched into a transcript of a police interview held at Bristol police station nearly three months past this point. A word of warning, keep your eye on the changing dates, which are easily signposted, because this book does hop backwards and forwards until the past catches up with the present.

There are as in many of this author’s books a number of issues which are sensitively portrayed but with realism at its core rather than the reader getting the feeling that they’ve been used to bolster an otherwise flabby storyline.

At the centre of this book is Tom Fitzwilliam, the head of the local school who is married to Nicola. They also live at Melville heights with their teenage son, Freddie. Joey quickly becomes infatuated with Tom and is watching him. Tom’s son Freddie was documenting the neighbourhood using his digital binoculars but more recently has been using his spy equipment to watch the teenage girls in the vicinity while down in Lower Melville Frances Tripp is convinced that there is a mass of people watching her, so she is watching everyone else.

You might be able to tell from that very short synopsis, apart from a lot of watching, there are lots of characters in this book. And what characters they are, even the teenage girls are kept distinct by Lisa Jewell’s keen eye (and pen) for the little things that make each person unique.
In short I found this latest novel absolutely gripping. I wanted to know who had been murdered, who would want to murder but most of all I wanted to truly understand this eclectic bunch of people who became my neighbours for the duration of the book. Of course it wasn’t that simple with impeccable timing we are drip-fed pieces of information, some of which are red-herrings, so that my opinion on the characters altered the more I learned about them all.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again here, if you haven’t read one of Lisa Jewell’s books you really should, she has a very easy to read style but that isn’t to say that they are superficial, in fact they are anything but!

I’d like to thank the publisher Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of Watching You and thank you to Lisa Jewell for such a gripping read.

First Published UK: 12 July 2018
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 496
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lisa Jewell Novels

Then She Was Gone (2017)
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 Book Review, Books I have read

Blackwater Lake – Maggie James

Novella
4*s

For someone who has repeatedly stated that shorter fiction is really not my cup of tea, I have had a short burst of reading quite a few examples of this craft lately, not at all in a bid to meet certain challenges, I hasten to add!
Blackwater Lake actually didn’t fit into any challenge but I do have a couple of the author’s books on my TBR and when another blogger reviewed this novella stating that it featured hoarding, I had to learn more and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

“It may not have been a lifestyle she chose, remember. Choice and compulsion don’t always go together.”

Matthew Stanyerhad left his Bristolian home as soon as he was able to, although at that time his mother’s hoarding was comparatively low level, he’d never been able to have friends round. As he got older, he visited sporadically but with the onset of his mother’s illness with dementia the visits became more frequent and his concern about the state his parents lived in multiplied. His father is still holding down his job as a groundsman for the Blackwater Estate but managing his wife’s condition is taking its toll. Then the day came when he couldn’t contact either of them and when he finds a note he knows that he will have to call the police. Even now as a grown man he wishes there was another way, he doesn’t want the state of the house to become public knowledge.

Matthew needs to clear the house out and starts sorting through the masses of papers and objects stored in the house, the tins of tuna hoarded for an eventuality only clear to his mother and the seemingly endless piles of clothes, many of which she’d never worn. When enough clutter has been sorted, Matthew uncovers some facts about his family all previously shrouded at best in secrecy or at worst shielded from his view in a veil of lies.

This is one meaty story for a novella, the characters see definite progression and end up as fully rounded people, although Matthew’s girlfriend is a little more of a shadowy being. I found the whole story of Blackwater Lake well and truly gripping all of which goes to show that a good story doesn’t need to be long to be satisfying. The plotting was also complex to fit into what amounts to a little under one hundred pages, and yet nothing felt rushed, the story easy to follow and I was on the roller-coaster ride to find out what happened in the past as well as the truth of what led to the disappearance of Matthew’s parents. I think it is often harder for a writer to give emotional depth to a story, particularly when the subject is male without moving towards the extremes yet although I never doubted the turmoil the chief protagonist was dealing with, the author didn’t allow those feelings to run out of control.

This absolute delight of a novella has confirmed that those books of Maggie James that have sat patiently on the TBR definitely need to be shuffled closer to the top of the mountain.

First Published UK: 27 September 2015
Publisher: Orelia Publishing 
No. of Pages: 93
Genre: Novella – Psychological Suspense
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Perfect Girl – Gilly Macmillan

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller
5*s

The Perfect Girl is the kind of book that you can get lost in, a totally compelling read that urges you to read just a few more pages and I enjoyed every minute of the journey.

Musical prodigy Zoe Guerin’s mother Maria is found dead very close to the beginning of the book, soon after Zoe and her Stepbrother Marcus perform a duet at a church in Bristol to mark Zoe’s comeback after she was incarcerated for causing the death of three teenagers. Having served her time she  has now  moved well away from the scene of the crime to have her ‘second-chance life’, complete with a new baby sister.

As is common to all of these types of books you can barely manoeuvre between the various issues being tossed from the pages; this one includes bullying, alcoholism, childlessness, hothousing and a whole host of others all of which muddy the waters as to who was twisted enough to kill Maria.

The story also uses multiple viewpoints to tell the sorry tale so we hear from Zoe, her aunt Tessa, Tessa’s husband Richard, Marcus and the attorney all have their say. This switching around is managed skilfully and I have a fondness for looking at an issue through differing eyes which in this instance really added to the tension and who and why the crime was committed. It is also an opportunity to give the reader the background, particularly that of the two sister’s Maria and Tessa although on reflection I’m not sure quite how convinced I was by Maria’s transformation from wild child to pushy parent but I always find with books like this, there is so much enjoyment to be gained from riding the waves it is best to suppress the little niggles that tend to crop up.

The one thing Gilly Macmillan has proved is that she really can tell a cracking good story. The plot was meticulously put together, the voices on the whole convincing and the tension created by a violent confrontation at the concert is successfully maintained throughout.

Lest you think this is a book that can only be read as a frivolous time waster albeit a pleasurable one, it isn’t. If you can stop yourself steaming through at a pace, there is a lot said about those people who mask their true selves to the world, how that works in reality and how manipulative adults cause confusion and distress to those around them. Some of the characters in this book may be at the extreme edge of that type but the truth told in The Perfect Girl is not something that just appears in fiction.

I for one thoroughly enjoyed the mix of characters, the underlying storyline of whether children who commit crime can ever put the past behind them to live a life that is some form of redemption is one that I find appealing and although I had worked out some of the ending, there was still enough to surprise me and I’m going to leave the review by saying it raises some difficult questions for the reader which may unsettle some. Although this book didn’t quite blow me away the way Burnt Paper Sky did, the same elements were present that made this an exceptionally good read.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little Brown Book Group (UK) who allowed me to read a copy of this book; this review is my unbiased thank you to them. The Perfect Girl will be published in paperback on 22 September 2016 but is currently available in eBook format and as a hardback book.

First Published UK: 3 March 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
No of Pages 464
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US