Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Liar’s Wife – Samantha Hayes

Psychological Thriller

As I recently mentioned I’ve read far fewer psychological thrillers than usual in 2018 but occasionally a book, or author has come across my radar that begs to be picked up. The Liar’s Wife was one such book; I’ve read previous books by this author, her earlier books being published long before this genre burst into popularity.

And The Liar’s Wife has a premise that you know is going to prove to be a gripping one if only to work out what on earth everyone’s motivation is!

Ella works on promotional films and one night after working a little later, as usual refusing to go for a drink with her colleagues, she gets on her bike to go home. On the way a van clips her bike and she hits the ground. The van driver, as she finds out later speeds off and an ambulance is called to take Ella to hospital.

Ella wakes from a coma to a nurse saying that her husband is on his way to visit her but Ella doesn’t have a husband. However unlike any normal person even when Ella is on the road to recovery she doesn’t tell the nurses who are devoted to her, who this man is. No she keeps quiet and lets him take her home to his house in a gated community. The thing is you see is Ella knows who the man is and keeping quiet is a far better option than that secret being exposed.

The story is full of suspense with the twists and turns kept to the right number, enough to allow the reader to get swept up in the story but not so many that the reader gets that travel sickness feeling as the road ahead is switched backwards and forwards before you’ve got your bearings.

Samantha Hayes knows how to write a good story, the tone is right with the dialogue perfectly pitched (one of my biggest gripes is that the villains in these stories often do little more than menace and grunt while their supposed charm would raise the red flags at an alarming rate of knots). I’d like to stress just how well the author recreated married life for Ella once she was at ‘home’ and the scenes were right up there on the creepy scale and I was absolutely on the edge of my seat for these. And then it all tipped over into the unrealistic territory which was a great shame as my enthusiasm then waned somewhat before the ending. That said, I will stress that part of my ‘problem’ with the genre is the number of books I have read within it. I know that if my brain starts flashing ‘I can’t believe that would happen’ types of warnings that no matter how good the author is, I’m unlikely to buy into anything else and of course what I find unbelievable won’t necessarily apply to the next person.

So if you really do enjoy a fast-moving and well-written psychological thriller The Liar’s Wife has a lot to offer.

I’d like to thank the publishers Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of The Liar’s Wife before publication later this week on 22 November 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 22 November 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 372
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Murder in Slow Motion – Rebecca Muddiman

Crime Fiction

Andrew returns home to find his partner Katy missing. The last text he had received was to let him know that she was visiting their neighbour. When he goes to find her there is nobody there but blood has been spilt. When DI Michael Gardner and DS Nicola Freeman talk to him they are inclined to think he is panicking unnecessarily despite the fact that the once confident Katy has recently been made redundant and seemingly doesn’t go anywhere. To find Katy they have to find her friends but that’s easier said than done when a person’s life has contracted to be contained within four walls.

The pair soon realise that one half of the neighbouring couple is also a police officer Dawn Lawson and she called in sick and no-one, including her boyfriend knows where she is either.

This is an incredibly claustrophobic novel and one where DI Gardner is so fired up by Dawn’s disappearance he often almost forgets that Katy is also missing. With the subject matter focussing on domestic abuse it is also a book that makes the reader think. Yes, we are in 2018 and domestic abuse is no longer the hidden subject it once was but this book shows us the different forms that it can take and of course, the effects it can have on the victim. It is also a sad reflection of the way that even though violent rows are overheard by others living nearby few take any action at all.

So the book has a big ‘issue’ but it is also a police procedural, albeit one where DI Gardner stretches the bounds of the law to the nth degree to ensure that he gets to the bottom of the women’s disappearance. As the investigation intensifies we see that both women had secrets and their lives from the outside were not at all like the reality.

There is plenty of action but overall this is a thoughtful book. The key drivers are the personalities, of Gardner and Freeman whose relationship is easily familiar although with a hint of irritation about their differences. But it is the supporting cast, the ones off page whose personalities intrigue us just as much. What did the shy Katy share with Dawn, or was it the other way around? Surely it can’t be a coincidence that they both have vanished at the same time? Their partners are also in the spotlight although neither can be placed at anything like the scene of the (almost) non-existent crime. Our pair of detectives have to work hard to sort this puzzle out.

I have enjoyed the two previous books I read in this series and have vowed to get around to the missing third episode. Fortunately they do work as standalones because like a lot of my favourite these contemporary writers, Rebecca Muddiman manages to give a different ‘feel’ to all her books despite keeping the key characters in place. This is definitely a police procedural that is as much about the why as the who.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author who provided me with a copy of Murder in Slow Motion – sorry it took me so long to get around to reading the book and writing this unbiased review.

First Published UK: 25 February 2018
Publisher: Independently Published
No of Pages: 388
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
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Books in the Gardner & Freeman Series

Tell Me Lies

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

Redemption – Jill McGown

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

Book number two in the Hill and Lloyd series was just as enjoyable as I hoped with a good honest proper mystery, complete with a limited number of suspects and a solid investigation. As much as I am a fan of the newer types of crime fiction there is something incredibly appealing about a straightforward murder mystery, told in a sequential timeline with a single (reliable) narrator.

is set in the Christmas period with snow on the ground, which was credible in 1988 when this book was first published, and in the Vicar’s home. George Wheeler, said Vicar, has a lack of faith which surely is a pre-requisite of the job, is ably supported with the lack of faith firmly disguised and ignored by his wife, Marian. They are both understandably distressed when their young daughter (a mere twenty-one) is visited by her husband in the small village outside Stansfield. Joanne, has been previously been beaten by Graham Elstow and returned to the bosom of her family after a particularly serious incident, and then on Christmas Eve night, he is found beaten to death in bed at the Vicarage. Acting Chief Inspector Lloyd (it seems Jill McGown went with her former Latin teacher, Colin Dexter’s naming preference for the chief protagonist and declined to give him a first name until much later in the series) and Sergeant Judy Hill are hopeful that this is going to be a case they can swiftly solve, after all surely young Joanne has retaliated with the handy murder weapon of a poker? It’s not to be, because it isn’t long before the alibis for the entire household come rolling in and the occupants insist that he must have been attacked by an intruder.

It was the skilful misdirection employed throughout this novel that really had me gripped. There are some convoluted relationships to dazzle the reader, including that of the young playgroup attendee Eleanor Langton who lives in the castle grounds as a single mother while working as an archivist. She has caught the Vicar’s eye and he is having very unholy thoughts about her. For Lloyd and Hill things are no less complex as there are some confessions, time lines which simply don’t fit with the time of death and locked doors that are usually left open, as I presume was the habit in a small village in the 1980s. Fortunately the reader doesn’t need to spare any sympathy for the wife-beating victim all of which ensures this book falls into the gentler half of crime fiction but far away from the cosy variety. I will grant you that we don’t get too far beneath the surface of the characters in the way more modern crime fiction tends to, but what is lacking here is made up for with a story with a puzzle that is told in a mere 246 pages.

Of course Christmas is a great setting for a murder mystery because you have all the angst and families, which often amount to one and the same thing, competing with the forced merriment. Jill McGown uses this aspect to breathe a contemporary feel into her mystery which has tendrils reaching back to the Golden Era. Lloyd and Hill are having an affair the beginnings of which stretch back through time but with Judy Hill moving back to the area, it has reignited, and we all know with those families hanging around that for those involved, Christmas is a tricky time to conduct any secret assignations. There have been strenuous efforts made by the author to remove the sordidness from this relationship with Judy’s marriage (almost) being one of convenience and the way both professionals keep their two worlds separate, meaning that the investigation isn’t sullied by bedroom antics.

All of this made for a very satisfying read, my first of the Mount TBR challenge which may not be succeeding in actually reducing the TBR as I now want the next book in the series which fortunately for me have been republished by Bello. Redemption has since been released by Pan as part of their Christmas series under the title Murder at the Old Vicarage. mount-tbr-2017


First Published UK: 1988
Publisher: Bello
No of Pages:  246
Genre: Crime Fiction Series – Police Procedural
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Lloyd and Hill Series

A Perfect Match (1983)
Redemption (aka Murder At the Old Vicarage) (1988)
Death of a Dancer (aka Gone to Her Death) (1989)
The Murders of Mrs Austin And Mrs Beale (1991)
The Other Woman (1992)
Murder… Now And Then (1993)
A Shred of Evidence (1995)
Verdict Unsafe (1997)
Picture of Innocence (1998)
Plots And Errors (1999)
Scene of Crime (2001)
Births, Deaths and Marriages (aka Death in the Family) (2002)
Unlucky for Some (2004)

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
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Posted in Books I have read, Books I want to Read, Five Star Reads

My Sister’s Bones – Nuala Ellwood

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

Well this story was so much more than I expected, the war journalist not a token character to make a difference like I suspected, but someone who really felt like they’d seen and done all those terrifying things that it is easier to shy away from when it comes on the news.

When Kate Rafter returns to Hearne Bay following the death of her mother she is collected from the train station by her brother-in-law Paul. It is clear from the outset that there is trouble between Kate and her younger sister Sally and even when we are forced to confront Kate’s version of events, there are questions as to the real cause.

I’m often wary of crime books that strongly have mental illness at the very centre of their tale, not because I’m in any doubt of the awfulness of the condition but because I harbour slight suspicions as to the author’s motives – do they chose to portray someone this way to be politically correct? Or to capture readers who suffer similarly? Perhaps it has been chosen to excuse the actions of a character to make the unbelievable, less absurd? Not so in this book. Yes Kate is suffering from the effects of all that she has witnessed and she hears voices, sees hallucinations and takes strong tablets to help her sleep, but, and this is crucial for me to keep faith, she is also strong, she takes herself to task, unwilling to play the victim, she wants to return to work. So although we have a reason to doubt her visions, as I got to know more about her, all that she sees and hears has echoes in the war-zones she recently left, it all felt authentic.

What is equally interesting is that we follow Kate in a police station over the course of her detention for some unknown crime. She is guarded, trying not to provide ammunition to the police but we are as unsure of her motive as her crime. In between the interviews she narrates her tale, going back to the weeks leading up to her arrest. Because I knew some of this background and her need to present her most sane self to the police this also gave me a clue as to the strength of this woman, this is no flaky airhead playing at being a war-zone journalist, imagining she’s been to Syria, this is someone who has seen things we don’t even want to imagine.

Most of the book is narrated by Kate but we get to see another perspective through her alcoholic sister’s eyes. Sally always felt her mother preferred clever Kate who succeeded at everything and had moved away and left them, including her mother who had been shattered by the death of their brother when he was just a toddler. This is just one of the shadowy truths that litter this book. We know David died, but how and why isn’t instantly apparent, neither is the disappearance of Hannah, Sally’s daughter.

With many themes of a distressing nature this book could easily have turned into a complete misery fest but it is far too clever for that. Although there is plenty to despair about, some of it far too distressing to deeply contemplate, there is also a plot with a definite ending which lifts this head and shoulders above the competition. I loved the way that the themes reappear throughout the story and loop back to re-examine the truths based upon updated information whilst never labouring the point.

In short, this book was so good, not always an easy read but an informative one, and yet the author never preaches, she is telling a story which has everything you’d expect from a good mystery, in fact there are several mysteries all of which are revealed with an understated style which will make you gasp.

Thank you to Penguin who allowed me to read a copy prior to the publication date of tomorrow. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

Published UK: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

I’m delighted that it is my turn on the blog tour for Behind Closed Doors as I can now share my review with you all…

Behind the very stylish door to the home of Jack and Grace Angel things aren’t all they initially appear. We first meet the successful couple, Jack a lawyer who spends his time standing up for victims of domestic violence and Grace who was a buyer for Harrods, hosting an elegant dinner party. Grace no longer has her high-powered job though, she’s a housewife, perhaps waiting for the patter of tiny feet.

The food served by Grace is exquisite and the conversation quickly turns to Jack and Grace’s first meeting. Neither had been married before despite Jack being highly sought after by his female colleagues; Grace’s marriage prospects had been hampered by her commitment to looking after her younger sister Millie, who has Down syndrome. Jack wasn’t put off by this life-long task though and the couple talk about welcoming Millie into their home when she leaves the school she attends.

What happens behind the scenes though is deeply disturbing and not in the conventional way but is it really possible that no-one can see the truth. I can’t really say much more except that despite the horror there is something compellingly realistic about the way that the action unfolds.

With the book split between the past and the present, so we see how the relationship progressed through a perfect courtship to marriage and then the honeymoon in Thailand where revelations made cast a whole different light on what had gone before. In the present we see that things aren’t quite the way the dinner party guests imagine but there is a deadline looming and a plan is needed, and fast.

This is real edge of your seat stuff and is so truly horrific a certain amount of suspense of belief is required but with the characters being so credible I found myself questioning whether or not this could happen, and I came down in favour of the author mainly because while I would hope this wouldn’t happen given the characters and circumstances of all involved I can believe that it might. The pace of the story is unrelenting which only serves to raise the tension and the mixture between past and present, especially as the gap between the two closes, works really well in giving the reader no opportunity to catch their breath.

A must read for all those lovers of the most popular recent psychological thrillers, you know the ones I mean, the ones that are populated by vile characters and keep you turning the pages just to see quite how bad things can get!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publisher HarperCollins who kindly arranged for me to receive a copy of this book and invited me to take part in this book tour.

Even better news, there is a whisper that the author already has another book in the making which I for one will be looking forward to reading.

B.A.ParisBlog tour banner Behind Closed Doors

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Darker Side of Love – Jessica Ruston

Women's Fiction 4*'s
Women’s Fiction

Having enjoyed The Lies You Told Me so much I decided to read a previous book by author Jessica Ruston which was available through Amazon Vine. Although not quite matching the excellence of this later offering it was still a really enjoyable read

The Darker Side of Love spans the years from late 2007 to 2010 telling the tale of a group of middle-classed friends dealing with life. As the title suggests this isn’t a cosy story of how love can conquer all but rather how love can be dangerous when offered to the wrong person. A number of serious issues are covered in the book including, domestic abuse, grief, substance abuse and adultery to name a few.

As the book starts all the couples; Izzy and James, Harriet and Wills and Stella and Jonny are all settled in life. Caroline, James’ sister is single and feels on the edge of the group due to her status. The story unfolds and we see that none of the couples are quite as secure as first impressions suggested and secrets and lies test their relationships. Told in chapters covering the key times when the group are bought together such as New Year’s Eve the reader is left with gaps, this device moves the story along nicely without becoming bogged down with the minutiae of daily life.

This is the perfect book to get lost in, well written with a good mixture of characters and with a bit of a twist in the tail. Jessica Ruston’s next book The Lies You Told Me is even better, clearly an author to watch.