Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

Having read so many great things about this novel I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy from the lovely Karen Sullivan at Orenda books.

Andy Boyd is a widower and has been more or less single ever since his wife died in childbirth, instead concentrating on his career in a bank and raising his precious son Pat. That is until Anna moves to town as she is due to start working at the bank. The pair quickly fall in love, and Andy believes he has found someone to share his life with, especially as Anna is so good with Pat. The fairy tale continues and the pair marry but Andy has an accident and ends up in hospital on his wedding night. What happened behind the closed door is quite at odds to the picture that is shown to his family, friends and colleagues.

Yes, this is a story of domestic violence perpetrated against a man, and as such it is an emotional read and without a doubt, a story well-worth telling, especially as Michael Malone does so with eloquence and a healthy dose of realism. The story set in the 1990s gives us a man’s man a rugby player whose physical strength clearly outweighs that of the petite Anna and yet the occasional lashing out becomes something much more ingrained as time goes on and his weakness is his inability to speak out. And this is a man with a fantastic support network of his mother and brother who have been there throughout the black days following his first-wife’s death.

This is a book that is hard to read because this is the truth of many people’s lives and although we have many books that focus on violence against women, in this day and age only a fool would believe that the reverse isn’t possible. That isn’t to say men in the grip of such a situation don’t have the same qualms as Andy does regarding how others would perceive the truth but I do feel that society has come to recognise that women aren’t always the victims and men are not always the aggressors.

The book flows well and I’m glad to report doesn’t relentlessly list one violent event after another, it has the subtlety required to allow the reader to understand why Andy stays with Anna and allows his confidence to be eroded. There is a matter of some dodgy goings on at the bank which gives us a chance to marvel at the author’s ability to create some fantastic, and realistic characters. The workplace scenes providing the perfect antidote to the suffocating atmosphere that is Andy’s home life.

This was a book that quickly sucked me into the narrative, Andy is a sympathetic character and easy to like but at times, as is often the case with books that are ‘issue-driven’ I felt that there was an over-emphasis on certain aspects in a seeming effort to convince the reader, such as the size and strength difference between the pair, authors, please learn to trust your readers; I certainly had no problem believing the scenarios! I have to admit I felt drained by the storyline, particularly as it wasn’t quite the light-hearted read to match the pre-Christmas holiday mood, but as a portrayal of what the worst of relationships can look like underneath the glossy, happy experience, it was spot-on.

A recommended read for those who are looking for something slightly different within the psychological thriller genre this is a book with a message well worth sharing.


First Published UK: 15 September 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
No of Pages: 276
Genre: Psychological Thriller – Domestic
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

A Mother’s Confession – Kelly Rimmer

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller

I picked this book up purely on the recommendation of a couple of other book bloggers who (strongly) hinted at a heart-breaking book; it is but not in the sense that phrase is usually referring to, this is no romantic light fluffy story, it is something far darker. This was a book that in turn chilled me to the bone, whilst the brilliant device of a mother telling the tale of her little boy’s birth onwards whilst his wife looks back on the life she shared with him as a man, had me absolutely hooked.

We know straight off that there has been a tragedy. David is dead, his wife Olivia is struggling with her grief, her daughter Zoe the only daily contact she has with the world outside her front door. She is too paralysed to talk to her former colleague who delivers a daily monologue through the front door to her, although she keeps her appointments with her grief-counsellor, the contents of these are delivered to the reader with a force that at times took my breath away.

David and Olivia were one of life’s fortunate couples, they were well-off, professionals living in a beautiful house, close by to his mother which was handy for babysitting, but the tragedy of David’s death has blown apart the careful construction of the perfect couple, the secrets can no longer be contained.

Ivy is mourning the loss of her son by remembering key episodes of his life from his birth through to the present day. Ivy is a mother who pushed her child to the fore, a woman who lived her life through her son’s achievements and as a result is lost, and perhaps unable to face up to what has happened.

Set in Australia the small town setting is an inspired device to allow us to experience the different viewpoints of the locals, particularly as David’s father owns the local grocery store. Olivia, and perhaps Ivy, have their versions of David challenged by those who only know part of their tale. We the readers are the fortunate ones because through both women we get to see the truth.

The depth of characterisation and in particular the development of Olivia’s as she moves from the first numbing days of grief to one where she begins to contemplate returning to work was superb. There was not one single moment when I disbelieved her actions, her words or thoughts. I was willing her along her difficult journey to an ending which simply had me stunned.

Ivy is a different sort of mother, one who holds some outdated and therefore seemingly outlandish views, a difficult woman to like especially when her actions have caused Olivia so much pain, but, controversially she has her reasons and so I still had a smidgen of sympathy for this blinkered woman, not a lot, but I felt that as the author has given us a little of her background, it would almost be rude to dismiss her as a total witch.

This book had me completely riveted, I did not want to part with it as I needed to know what was going to happen. The author pulled me in from the off, and each bit of information added to the rising feeling of dread in this book where it was obvious something terrible was going to be revealed, but quite what wasn’t apparent until it was upon me.

If you like books that let you run the gamut of emotions, a book that is pitched at just the right pace so that you are not fighting against the feeling that the author is withholding information as a ploy to fill the book, don’t dismiss this book. The cover doesn’t do justice to the power of the words inside A Mother’s Confession.

I received my copy of A Mother’s Confession from the publishers Bookouture. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author Kelly Rimmer, another author whose back catalogue I will now be exploring.

First Published UK: 27 October 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller – domestic
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Husband’s Wife – Jane Corry

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

This is a domestic thriller with a difference, far more subtle than the normal fayre and dare I say it, with a less simplistic message than some.

The book opens on 20 October 2015 with an excerpt from The Telegraph announcing the death of a famous artist, he’d been stabbed. We then move straight back in time to the turn of the millennium in the year 2000 and meet Lily who is a solicitor facing her first day assisting the defence in a criminal case. The subject is Joe Thomas an incarcerated man accused of murdering his girlfriend. It is also Lily’s first day back at home in her Clapham flat as a married woman, she has married an aspiring artist, Ed, who works in advertising to pay the bills.

Next we meet Carla who is a child of nine who lives downstairs from Lily and Ed with her Italian mother Francesca. Carla’s father died when she was a baby and she longs for the things the other girls at school have but most of all she longs not to be different. While Francesca works Carla is looked after by Lily and becomes a subject for Ed to draw and paint.

The first half of the book follows these flawed five characters throughout the time that Lily is building her case to free Joe Thomas. The hours are long and her marriage to Ed less than perfect. We know that Lily misses her dead brother Daniel, and that she feels guilty about something that happened before she married, but whatever caused the guilt, Lily is not telling anyone. But there is no doubt that she sees something of Daniel in her client Joe. The author also paints a worrying picture of a young girl who learns to lie to and manipulate those around her to ease her unhappiness.

One of the most brilliant things in the book is precisely that all the characters are a mixture of good and bad. Does being good in one area of your life redeem yourself for those times that you behaved less well? This theme runs into the second half too when we meet Carla in 2013 as an adult, a beautiful young woman who is determined not to end up like her mother, alone and unhappy. She decides to seek out some old friends and so enters Lily’s life once more.

Along with the complex and enthralling characters we have other reoccurring issues including Asperger’s syndrome, fidelity, deception and lies and we all know one small lie can easily multiply to become something huge!

The chapters alternate between Lily and Carla which kept me reading long after I should have put the book to one side, as they revealed not only parts of their own characters but also of those around them. This isn’t a fast paced book, the author covers a lot of ground and the depth of the story being told becomes apparent as the layers are peeled back on the characters. Using her writing, rather than a jaw-dropping twist, the feeling of dread increases quite alarmingly once the second half of the book begins. After all we now know something of what each of the characters we’ve met are capable of, but how does that link to the tantalising opening headline? If you want to know, you really should read My Husband’s Wife which is published today, 26 May 2016.

I’d like to offer a huge thank you to Penguin UK who gave me an advance copy of this book for review purposes. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

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

The Swimming Pool – Louise Candlish

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller

The Swimming Pool gets my recommendation as a must-read novel of the summer, preferably by your own swimming pool, the sounds and the smells enhancing the wonderful backdrop to this scary tale about female friendship.

When previously staid, middle-aged teacher Natalie Steele hears that the swimming pool near her home has been renovated, she’s anxious. Her daughter Molly has an extreme water phobia after all and a pool isn’t going to help. But, all too soon she is drawn to it, to the exclusion of pretty much everything and everyone else, well everyone that is except her new best friend Lara. Lara Faulkner is confident and glamorous as befits her former life as an actress, and the more sceptical in Natalie’s circle wonder what the attraction is? The fact that from Natalie’s perspective that there is an attraction is not in doubt! As the summer holiday unfolds Natalie begins to question all that she held most dear and for a while, wishes that the summer could last forever!

Natalie is a compelling character, she is typical of her generation, living in a rented apartment because following an early marriage to her husband Ed they didn’t manage to get on the property ladder at the right time. Theirs is a typical family, hard-working if a bit earnest they have adapted their early ideals to make a comfortable and safe life for their daughter Molly. Molly’s phobia has obviously become a huge issue, particularly for Natalie and the scenes where Natalie realises that Molly no longer needs her protection in the way she used to really resonated with my experience of parenting an early teen.

This is a clever tale that slowly unfolds in front of us over the course of one summer holiday. The way that Natalie is drawn to Lara obviously foretells something awful but quite what is the question. This feeling is mirrored by the writing which is nothing but foreboding with the heat and the tension rising of each and every page, I really felt myself pulled into the story. Like the onlookers in Natalie’s circle including her husband, fellow teacher, Ed, I was wondering what is behind the friendship and what the autumn would look like for all concerned.

But this book isn’t just about this summer, we know that Natalie had a summer of madness many years earlier and as the tale of a different more murky natural pool, the setting for adolescent life in the 1985. The mystery is what does this long ago summer have to do with anything, except the haunting of Natalie as she relives her actions from that time.

The dénouement is brutal as the secrets that have been half-hidden are revealed following an explosive end of summer party held at the Lido and by the time it came I wasn’t quite sure what to believe. A truly captivating end to a wonderfully readable novel.

Louise Candlish takes a believable situation and clouds the underbelly in shadow. So I suggest that you go set up your sun-lounger and prepare to be entertained by the characters, setting and a plot that swirls like a whirlpool!

I was lucky enough to receive my copy for review from Lovereading, The Swimming Pool will be published on 5 May 2016 by Penguin UK.

I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to read this book as I loved The Sudden Departure of the Frasers last year, so much so that I have also read The Disappearance of Emily Marr, both of which I highly recommend. Luckily Louise Candlish has a large back-catalogue to explore and I have another in reserve on the TBR.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

No One Knows – J.T. Ellison

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

Regular readers may have noticed that I have cut right back on my consumption of those books that are touted as the next Gone Girl, Girl on the Train etc. despite the fact I was a fan of both, the problem being like death by chocolate, you can overdose on them! That said the memory of how good they can be is still alluring and so in 2016 I have limited my selection, but this is one that got past my well-known restraint! And I’m glad that it did, as here is one twisty domestic based psychological thriller that has all of the best ingredients, and even the title doesn’t have that overused word in it!

So what is it about? Well we first meet Aubrey Hamilton her husband, her childhood sweetheart, has been missing for five years and has just been declared dead. Aubrey however just can’t shake the feeling that he may still be alive, after all who goes missing at a stag do for their best friend the night before the groom’s wedding? It appears that Josh simply vanished from the hotel that the couple were staying at with no sight nor sound of him since. And now a new man has walked into her life and he reminds her so much of Josh. In short Aubrey examines her life before Josh disappeared looking for clues in their happy marriage to see if she can discover what really happened to her beloved husband that night.

The success of these books is to have one foot rooted far enough in reality to keep the reader hooked while allowing the other to roam freely so that coincidences and random occurrences can flow freely unimpeded by reason. J.T. Ellison has the balance absolutely right! I’ve also found it best if you read these types of novels in longish stretches which helps to keep you in the moment, following the twists and turns wherever they may take you.

The part where domestic noir often fails is with the characters; I think the success of the two currently touted books proves that the protagonist doesn’t have to be likeable and flaws are actually welcome but their characters do have to have an element of a real person. Aubrey is actually quite a nice character, her only flaw being that she wasn’t good enough for her future mother-in-law, having been in care following the death of her parents. In this book the award for the nastiest character goes to Josh’s mother, a woman who is going to sue Aubrey for Josh’s life insurance money which can now be paid out on his death.

Lastly a domestic noir books must have the unexpected which is now compulsory, the more outrageous the better – I think J.T. Ellison has earned her stripes here too with more than one bombshell to blow what you think you know to smithereens.

So did I enjoy it? Yes, I did, as pure entertainment and wonder at how an author can come up with such a plot, it had me gripped and intrigued as to how the author was going to resolve it all, the answer was satisfying. Better still I didn’t feel like I couldn’t face another in this genre for a few weeks!!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Gallery Books for allowing me to read a copy of No One Knows before publication on 22 March 2016. This review, my honest opinion, is my thanks to them.

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

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller

What a relief to know that I am not the only person who looks out of a train window and makes up stories for the inhabitants, that is how we meet our chief protagonist Rachel. Sitting on a train commuting to London the train routinely stops at lights in one particular stop. Rachel spots a couple sitting on their makeshift roof terrace and assigns them names, Jessie and Jason, and an idyllic life to match. As we get to know Rachel better we begin to understand why this essentially imaginary couple are so important to her.  Rachel is unhappily divorced, living in a shared house and she’s an alcoholic but fear not this book while ensuring the consequences of her drinking are clear doesn’t play us endless scenes of her drinking herself into oblivion, it is far cleverer than that giving instead a taster of her morning and evening from a selection of days starting on 5 July 2013 and ending on 18 August of the same year.

When one routine morning she sees something that shatters her views of her imaginary couple and this event becomes an obsession as its significance is revealed. This is an ingeniously constructed story told not only from Rachel’s viewpoint, but those of two other women, Anna and Megan too. Megan’s story begins a year before Anna’s and although the relevance of her story isn’t immediately apparent I still wanted to know more about her. As the story progresses the way these three women’s lives are connected becomes apparent, and then the fun really starts with the action ramping up along with the tension. With the split in viewpoint perfectly timed so that the reader doesn’t feel that the switch has been purposely inserted to prolong the suspense, although it certainly does that.

I was hooked on this story, I trusted not one of the characters, I’ll be honest, none of them are people you’d aspire to be, rather they are people with issues, unfortunate personalities and they all picked up too many narcissistic genes from the gene pool, but the author manages to keep them the right side of caricatures, unfortunates among you may have met people just like them. The plot is full of sub-plots which almost compels you to judge these people and their behaviour which just served to fuel my suspicions about each and every one of them even more.

This is an accomplished debut written by an author who has exactly the right balance of ingredients for a psychological suspense novel, a well-plotted mystery, a handful of life-like characters, events revealed at the right time and an ending that didn’t disappoint.

I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld for allowing me to read a proof copy of this book ahead of publication date on 15 January 2015 and I sincerely hope Paula Hawkins has another book in the pipeline.