Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The House Swap – Rebecca Fleet

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Now the thought of strangers staying in my house when I’m not there isn’t one that appeals on any level but for Caroline and therapist husband Francis the house swap gives them an opportunity to take a cheap break in Chiswick, close to London. So they make a folder of important information and leave their Leeds apartment to be enjoyed by a stranger in their absence.

Francis and Caroline leave their young son Eddie with her mother and drive to Chiswick and the boxy house which will become their base for exploring museums and the like in the big city for the next week. As they walk inside the lack of personal possessions is immediately apparent. Who’d live in a house like this?

This is a domestic thriller and as such a portrait of a marriage under an enormous amount of strain. Francis has suffered with an unspecified addiction while Caroline, the breadwinner, cook, bottle washer and parent, eventually snaps and starts a lurid affair with a younger colleague. The affair is hot, as are both Caroline and Carl, her paramour and the sections of the book set in the past are full of sex and the excitement of new passion. Caroline believes the lies she tells herself and her enjoyment of the attention in contrast to her empty marriage is very well done. But all this is in the past, two years before the trip away. So when Caroline notices things that remind her of times passed and she becomes spooked, as you would.

This is a good debut novel although not suitable for those readers who need to like or admire the characters. I would have liked to know more about the background to Francis’s addiction but as The House Swap is mostly told from Caroline’s point of view, we hear her thoughts on him but little of what makes him tick (when he’s not out of it on whatever pills he’s addicted to) In fact the woman who seemed most ‘real’ was the intense neighbour but that is probably because we know Caroline is hiding, from herself as much as Francis.

What The House Swap does really well is to shine a spotlight on how one person’s behaviour can cause a ripple effect, and it does it well. It’s also a lesson in how lack of communication can cause huge issues that can’t be overcome without a level of trust.

Caroline has only just made herself at home before a neighbour introduces herself and becomes a little bit keen to spend time with her which is just odd considering she’s only staying for a week.

There is plenty of intrigue that kept me turning the pages of this novel which is the ideal beach read. After all we all like to peek behind someone else’s curtains, even if the thought of the favour being returned makes us recoil in horror. The plotting is accomplished so even though I could think of various ways the storyline could play out, I wasn’t right in any aspect at all.

I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld who allowed to me read a copy of The House Swap before publication on 3 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Rebecca Fleet for an entertaining read.

First Published UK: 3 May 2018
Publisher:Transworld
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

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.

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

The Mistress’s Revenge – Tamar Cohen

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

Tamar Cohen’s debut is written with real style and some very dark humour. The story is that of a married woman who has recently been dumped by her married lover, she starts a journal on her therapist’s advice that she should be “journalling her emotions” Sally’s aside is “Did you know journal is a verb now?”
The journal follows Sally through her steady descent into madness as she obsesses over the things Clive said to her and his responses (he does respond to her desperate efforts to get in touch, sometimes.) “I meant everything I said to you. At the time”!! Sally’s reflections are darkly funny because we have all heard these phrases either first or second hand.

As I read the journal I was transported to many conversations with friends over the years, the need to go over every word said, every look interpreted etc. etc.

As the journal continues Sally meets up with Clive’s wife and daughter and these meetings and conversations are mulled over along with how she imagines Clive will react to hearing about the meetings. Sally builds up to tracking Clive’s children and his wife as covertly as possible including checking their facebook status updates constantly.

Sally is so obsessed with Clive and his life that she becomes increasingly distanced from her husband, and more shockingly, her children, she just doesn’t comprehend how ridiculously she is behaving.

I did feel that this book could have been just a fraction shorter but I loved the ending! I won’t spoil it but again the author had captured the difference time can make to feelings.

Tamar Cohen’s debut novel is well worth the read, I will miss the freshness of the writing. This isn’t fatal attraction, it is far more subtle and clever than that was.