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

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

Psychological Thriller

When you pick up one of Sophie Hannah’s books, I’ve learnt it is best to expect the unexpected and she’s done it again, I was gripped by the mystery of the seven year old’s disappearance seven years ago, a disappearance that had gripped America from the start.

As to be expected from this hugely talented author we have characters that are so memorable you’ll want to send them a Christmas card, or at perhaps cross them off the list, because,  some of them aren’t very nice at all!

Cara Burrows has booked herself into a five star hotel in Arizona, miles from her husband and two teenage children, simply leaving a note to tell them she will be back on 24 October. It takes a while for the reader to understand how this seemingly nice woman could take such an action, or perhaps more importantly why. Patience is key, Sophie Hannah starts with a mystery which demands an answer but she makes her readers wait for them, but fear not, the answers are all given in good time. Cara arrives at Swallowtail resort late at night and is booked in by the receptionist. She makes her way to the room, only to find that it is already occupied by a father and daughter who she disturbs from their sleep. The receptionist is deeply apologetic and finds her a new room.

Staying at the hotel at the same time as Cara is an elderly lady who has ‘seen’ Melody at the resort each time she has stayed there. Melody was a girl who was all over the news and excerpts from talk shows before the culprits were arrested are included in the novel. This platform is useful for discussing the very different ways that crimes are handled by the media in the UK and the US. In the US the talk show host Bonnie Juror is able to shout her beliefs from her chat show without threat of perverting the course of justice, something that simply would never happen in the UK, although of course it doesn’t stop individuals speculating when we see the sadly all too familiar media statements from grieving families.

With Cara needing a bit of displacement activity she makes a very reserved British bond with two fellow sun lounger inhabitants, a mother and daughter both of whom had me in stitches with their brilliant one-liners with the differences in approach between the two nations accurately portrayed. Anyway between them they educate Cara on the full Melody story and encourage her growing suspicion that Melody is still alive and on the resort.

Taken in parts this story is completely unbelievable but I really didn’t mind, the journey was so entertaining, the commentary that underlines the storyline on a number of different subjects is true which allowed me to believe in the right circumstances with a good handful of coincidences thrown in that this could be true…

This is the perfect summer read although if you are staying in a less than palatial resort you may experience some envy, with brilliant characters, each one is so superbly drawn (and coloured in) with a fair bit of drama to ensure that a soothing massage I required by the time you turn that brilliant last page.

Thank you to the publishers Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read this book ahead of publication on 24 August 2017 – this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 August 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Culver Valley Series
1. Little Face
2. Hurting Distance
3. The Point of Rescue
4. The Other Half Lives
5. A Room Swept White
6. Lasting Damage
7. A Kind of Cruel
8. The Carrier
9. The Telling Error
10. The Narrow Bed


Standalone Books

A Game for all the Family

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

Lie With Me – Sabine Durrant

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller

Having just returned from Crete when I picked up this book I was absolutely delighted to be transported to the Greek setting of Sabine Durrant’s latest psychological thriller.

Although domestic thrillers have burst onto the scene in a big way in the last couple of years, this one definitely rang some changes for me, not least because our narrator is a man. Paul Morris by his own admission, although quite how much self-awareness accompanies this is doubtful, is a man who lives his life off the back of other’s fortune. Having had literary success in his early twenties, he has devoted the next twenty odd years to repeating this early acclaim. While living in a friend’s apartment he meets a woman called Alice who he has distant connections with through a friend from university. Alice has been widowed and is mother to two teenage children. She has a lease on a house in Greece and her and friends decamp for a trip to Pyros.

Alongside our narration in the present with the chauvinistic Paul, he really has a vile way of viewing females, we learn about a young girl named Jasmine who disappeared in Pyros some ten years before. Alice has assiduously been carrying out an awareness campaign for the whole time, having been there at the time Jasmine was first reported missing. But as the land that the house Alice leases is being developed, the ten-year anniversary is to be the last big push. Jasmine’s parents are on the island, an interesting couple who don’t quite fit with the rich and privileged group. Will this be the year that they find Jasmine?

So to the title, the whole story hinges on lies. Paul Morris tells plenty; Alice is unaware that he doesn’t own the smart London apartment, that he was in Pyros at the time of Jasmine’s disappearance or that his arrival this year, isn’t quite how it’s been presented. But is it possible that other members of the group have presented falsehoods as truths?

An interesting premise which delivers a cracking good read. Yes, there are a few coincidences to drive the storyline forward but I was, by the time these emerged, so intent on finding out what happened to Paul, there are some early excerpts from a time after the holiday, which are intriguing to say the least! I also was keen to understand what everyone knew about Jasmine. For instance the police are still advising that the case is being investigated, we even meet the local policeman who liaise with the family, and Alice and co. but there have been no firm sightings in the intervening ten years.

So the characters are for the most part either suffocatingly good which covers Alice and her friend Tina or arrogant and boorish which covers Andrew and Paul, or brattish which covers the four children who make up the party, so this probably isn’t the book to read if you want to feel affinity for the characters. If however you enjoy a good mystery and are prone to wondering about just how tangled a web you can weave with lies, this will absolutely be the book you want to take on your holiday, especially if you’re off to Greece.

Lie With Me was published by Mulholland Books on 5 July 2016 and they were kind enough to send me a copy which I accepted in return for this honest review.

Other Fabulous Books by Sabine Durrant

Under Your Skin
Remember Me This Way

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Long Fall – Julia Crouch

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller

If you are looking for the perfect holiday read then this may just be it. Julia Crouch takes her readers on a journey to the island of Ikaria, taking in France and Athens on the way and the descriptions of the adventure Emma James is embarking on is extremely evocative especially with an adults perspective of what lone travelling can mean when everything you need has to be carted from one grotty hostel to the next. Set in 1981 Emma James is travelling alone, full of the bravado that only a sheltered eighteen year old can possess, especially when that young girl is determined to leave the northern town of Ripon behind, along with her boring parents and have an adventure before going to University with a tale to tell. Sadly the trip isn’t quite what she dreamed of and the events are set to change her life forever.

In the present Kate is the ‘Face of Kindness’ having set up a charity to help young girls in Africa, a charity born out of despair following the death of her young daughter Martha. Having conquered her fear of flying to visit a newly opened school she is back at home with her hedge fund manager husband Mark and teenage daughter Tilly. When Tilly announces she wants to go travelling Kate’s tenuous grip on normality begins to unravel but worse is still to come, a bit of her past comes bounding back into her life and choices must be made.

I love books that flip backwards and forwards through time particularly when the past is in the form of journal entries, and this one has the added distinction of the past being set during a trip where the life’s normal boundaries are different. I felt I was there with Emma, drinking at the tavern, sleeping on the roof and meeting new people feeling that she was following in the footsteps of her favourite writers. The spell was only momentarily broken when modern phrases crept into the journal that weren’t exactly authentic to the time it was set in, but I was able to forgive this and favour instead, the fast-moving plot and maternal feelings I felt for the young Emma, alone and unsure in a foreign land.

To enjoy this book you do have to leave some logic behind especially in relation to some of Kate’s decisions and I have to admit I guessed most of the outcome but I wasn’t quite sure enough that it spoilt my enjoyment of this fast-paced and disturbing book.

I was delighted to receive a free copy of this book from the publishers Headline ahead of the publication date of 19 June 2014 as I have read all this author’s previous novels.

Cuckoo – Psychological thriller set in the domestic setting. Polly comes to stay with Rose and her family and doesn’t seem to want to leave but not before strange things start happening.

Every Vow You Break – I wasn’t as convinced by this story with its setting New York. Marcus and Laura decide that a break will hep their marriage so travel with him while he works on a play.

Tarnished – An outstanding read which I was absorbed and repulsed by in equal measure. Read my review here