Posted in Book Offers, Book Review, Five Star Reads

Degrees of Guilt – HS Chandler

When I spied an excellent review for this book on Chocolate’n’Waffles blog, I knew I had to get a copy to read for myself. Now I have to confess I haven’t read any of the author’s books written under the name Helen Fields although I do have the first book in Human Remains, the first in the DI Callanach series on my kindle. But like any dedicated bookworm, I know what I like and right near the top of the list is books set in a courtroom and not far behind are ones that pose a moral dilemma.

Maria is in the dock. No shades of grey are instantly apparent, her husband the eminent ecologist Edward Bloxham is dead. She called the police and greeted them on the front drive holding the weapon, a broken chair leg.
Lottie Hiraj is on the jury she’s a young mother and deep down the chance to do something other than keep house for a while is a little bit appealing. But can casting judgement on another person’s life be something that you can do without it changing you?

The majority of the book is set in Bristol Crown Court either in the court itself or in the jury room where the twelve selected members of the public are sequestered while they wait for the next act and ultimately go to make their judgement. What happens in between is both insightful with hefty dashes of surprise as the author.

I loved the entire premise as much as I hoped I would. This courtroom drama was spot on even though the author took the more difficult route by giving us an opening where we see the immediate aftermath of Edward’s murder. The peek into the life of Maria and Edward is fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. This book was written after some recent changes to the law and therefore hopefully a shift in society’s awareness of the issues. The characters are well drawn, mainly multi-layered and fairly diverse in their backgrounds– just what the jury system is supposed to deliver? Of course the perpetrator and the jury aren’t the only main players we also have the barristers, a psychologist and the police making their point, bringing their own thoughts into the courtroom to be held up for inspection. Interestingly the author borrows from the court system to tell her story but doesn’t get too hung up on all the legalities to make the story work, those who are sticklers for true representation may find this hard to take.

What I didn’t expect was that the book was far less straightforward than I expected, parallels are subtlety drawn between Maria’s life with Edward and Lottie’s with her husband Zain which made me feel quite uncomfortable at times but fear not this isn’t a book which depends upon something quite so obvious, there is far more to this story than you might think! In fact this is the first book in an absolute age that I didn’t want to be parted from, and while that may be partly down to timing, I can’t deny that biggest reason is because it is a gripping tale.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for Degrees of Guilt from the publishers Trapeze, this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author – be assured I will be reading Perfect Remains before too long!


First Published UK: 16 May 2019
Publisher: Trapeze
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Little Sister – Isabel Ashdown

Psychological Thriller

Warning – Don’t open this book for a peek, you will not be able to put it aside once you start!

This book has a seriously good opening and one that you won’t forget as you read on to find out what happened to baby Daisy in the early hours of New Year’s day morning, because one thing is for sure she is no longer at home in her cot where she should be.

Daisy is Chloe’s younger sister, well technically she is her half-sister Chloe’s mother having died when she was small but her father James met Emily when she was small and they’ve been a family ever since. Now on the brink of her sixteenth birthday she adores baby Daisy.

Jess is Emily’s younger sister, with just ten months between them they always did everything together, they were even in the same class at school and Jess adored Ellie. Recently Jess moved in with Ellie and has taken on the role of nanny to Daisy while Ellie returns to work. The sisters have much catching up to do as they only regained their tight bond following their mother’s recent death.

So we have two sets of little’s sisters and two mysteries. The overriding one into Daisy’s disappearance and the historic one into why Emily and Jess became estranged when they were teenagers. Both storylines are utterly compelling and reveal long-buried secrets of the relatively small cast of characters. Although the story is mainly told through the eyes of Emily and Jess in the past and the present we do hear from other key players along the way. Each chapter spills at least one secret challenging the reader to put the book aside. I simply couldn’t; this was a real, just a few more pages and then I’ll go to sleep book!

Little Sister is set on the Isle of Wight and although it is many years since I visited, the famous locations are woven throughout meaning that this beautiful location really feels to be part of the story itself. Living on an island myself I didn’t need too many prompts to work out that this was going to be one claustrophobic story and boy does Isabel Ashdown use this to ramp up the tension. Daisy’s disappearance brings outsiders in the way of the police to investigate but it also brings a pack of journalists baying outside the front door as each lead hits the headlines nationally as well as locally but it isn’t just the daily revelations that mark the passing of time since Daisy went, we also have the slowly decaying Christmas tree wilting, the baubles that Daisy once babbled at looking ever more forlorn as Emily refuses to allow it to be dismantled, anxious that Daisy should see it once more when she is found. It is these smaller details which turn this book from a run of the mill psychological thriller into something quite exceptional which alongside the pitch-perfect pacing had me completely hooked.

While the answers to the two mysteries become clear well before the end of the book, because of the depth of the story I didn’t feel cheated because there is plenty more to come. I particularly loved the ending where the author has chosen to wrap everything up in one neat bow with flourishes that were entirely satisfying.

This is a book I wanted to savour but at the same time couldn’t slow down with a story I became so immersed in so well-drawn were all the characters from the teenage Chloe to the police, from the distraught mother Emily to the owner of the café – all were so realistic, I feel sad to say goodbye to them all.

First Published UK: 27 April 2017
Publisher: Trapeze
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US