The Lies We Hide by S.E. Lynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this poignant story. Thank you too Bookouture for the invitation to take part, and to Bookouture and NetGalley for my copy of this book. 

SYNOPSIS:

The truth can set you free, or make you a prisoner…

Thirty years ago, Nicola Watson lived with her parents and older brother in a respectable suburb. At ten years old, she didn’t yet understand why her stomach tightened when she heard her father’s heavy tread as he returned home late at night, or why it made her brother Graham’s stammer get worse, or why one night her mother Carol woke them both, wide-eyed and whispering, and took them out of their home and into the unknown.

Now a successful lawyer in the city, with a life poles apart from her dark beginnings, Nicola has returned home for her mother’s funeral. But as she stands in her mother’s house, remembering the woman who sacrificed everything for her children, Nicola has to confront the guilt she feels for leaving her family behind. And the belief that she played a part in events that led to her brother going to prison for murder.

All Carol wanted to do was protect her children, but escaping her husband was only the beginning of the story. And when Nicola learns the truth of what her mother did, it will change everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

A gripping, emotional story of family secrets, and the strength of a mother’s love in the darkest times.

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MY REVIEW:

The Lies We Hide is a story about a family trying to make it through the trials and trauma life throws their way. A story about secrets, lies, guilt and forgiveness. Of a mother’s strength and sacrifice to keep her children safe.

The story is told in three timelines: In 1984 Carol flees with her children in the middle of the night after her abusive husband, Ted, tries to kill her. In 1992 Richard is a prison chaplain trying to reach an inmate, Graham, and help lift the heavy burden of guilt he feels. And in 2019 Nicola is grieving their mother, looking back on her life and trying to assuage her own feelings of  guilt. The author effortlessly weaves between these timelines to tell the story of the Watson family and slowly unveil the secrets they’ve kept hidden for decades. 

I loved this book. I’ve heard lots of praise for S.E. Lynes but this is the first time I’ve read one of her books (though shamefully I have four of them sitting on my kindle). I am now one of those singing her praises. Her writing is honest, raw, emotional and captivating. The Lies We Hide deals with a log of difficult subjects such as abuse, addiction and murder, but she handles them all with sensitivity.  

The characters were all well written and it felt like a book made up of troubled and fragmented souls. I liked how nuanced the author wrote them as it made them feel real. Although I expected Nicola to be the main character of this book, she ended up being the member of the Watson family we know least of all. She is telling a story where she’s on the fringes, that she  only learned the details of as she got older, some that she is even finding out as we do. Carol was far from perfect but I liked her most of all. She was a strong, brave woman who would do anything for her children. Leaving an abuser is incredibly hard and for her to flee with nothing but a few things in a bag was courageous. Her struggle to not go back to Ted and to build a new life for her and the kids was true to life and heart-rending. I longed for her to find the happiness she deserved and finally feel free of Ted both inside and out. Ted was a vile, disgusting man who I hated. I could understand why Carol had loved him once and why she found it hard to leave, but he was a perfectly written example of an abusive alcoholic and I was hoping he’d get his just desserts from early on. 

Graham is a mess but my mother’s heart broke for him with all he went through in his young life. I liked that I was able to both be disgusted at how he was acting and want to wrap my arms around him and tell him he’d be okay at the same time. For me, Graham was the character where the author’s writing shone most of all as he had such a richly developed character with so many different parts and was both awful and lovely at the same time. I particularly loved the relationship between him and his chaplain, Richard. There were so many great scenes between them and they got me feeling ALL the emotions at one stage or another. I could vividly picture the two of them in that room during the sessions and I think it was a great choice to have Richard, rather than Graham, tell that part of the story so we got a broader perspective and a chance to see things from the outside.

Secrets and guilt play a huge role in this novel. All our main characters are hiding things, sometimes because they believe it’s best for those we love, and are living with guilt over those secrets and things they’ve done. Experly plotted, the secrets remained hidden even from the reader for most of the book, and showed that this author knows how to surprise you with a great twist.

Spectacularly written, The Lies We Hide is an emotional, captivating, unflinching novel that I would highly recommend. That ending alone was worth reading the book for! I am glad I’ve finally had the pleasure of reading this author’s work and can’t wait to finally read her back catalogue. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amazon best selling author of ‘intelligent and haunting’ psychological thrillers VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT, THE PROPOSAL and THE WOMEN. 

S E Lynes is a writer, tutor and mentor. Formerly a BBC producer, she has lived in France, Spain, Scotland, Italy, and now lives in Greater London with her husband, three kids and her dog, Lola. 

Her critically acclaimed debut, VALENTINA, was published by Blackbird Digital Books in July 2016. Her second novel, MOTHER was published by Bookouture in 2017, followed in 2018 by THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL. In August 2018, VALENTINA was published in a new edition by Bookouture and THE WOMEN was released in 2019. Her new novel, the dark and gripping family drama, THE LIES WE HIDE, is published Dec 4th 2019.

Susie Lynes has also published two children’s books in Italy: Il Leopardo Lampo and La Coccodrilla Ingamba, both available at Amazon.it

Find her on:

Facebook S E Lynes Author

Twitter @SELynesAuthor  

The Lies We Hide - Blog tour

The Pact by Amy Heydenrych ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this absorbing thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my invitation to take part and to Zaffre and NetGalley for my copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:    

What if a prank leads to murder?

When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her colleague Jay.

However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery. After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank. The next morning Nicole is found dead in her apartment.

Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone whos is capable of murder – and could she be next?

MY REVIEW:

“It was just a joke, a little slice of revenge…”

The story at the heart of this book is one that is all too familiar to most women. We all have stories about the male colleague who makes unwelcome suggestive remarks, gets a bit too handsy, holds onto a hug for that little bit too long or makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t put our finger on. I bet there’s someone in your mind that describes right now. I know there is in mine. And what do we do? We usually brush it aside so we don’t cause a problem and tell ourselves it’s harmless fun. And if we do report it then we face the accusations that we led them on, did something to cause it and watch as things are twisted to paint them as the victim and us as the harasser. The #MeToo movement is beginning to change the tides and has inevitably sparked a wave of books and other media that address these issues. The Pact is the best I’ve read yet.

I didn’t expect this to be such a timely book but I am glad this author chose to write this particular story. As well as sexual harassment the book takes a look at other social issues such as bullying in the work place, the inequality between the sexes in certain professions, women being pitted against each other and how the media looks at female victims of crime. All the topics were handled in an honest and sensitive manner that felt realistic and sadly relatable.

The author filled this book an eclectic mix of strong, intelligent but flawed female characters. The narrators, Isla and Freya, are both ambitious and passionate about their chosen field. Both have things in their past that have left them a little fragile and fractured but also gave them strength that I don’t think they recognised in themselves at first. I liked both characters and thought their bad decisions only made them more human and relatable. Nicole was the mean girl. While she’s alive we only see her through Freya’s eyes and, as she is being bullied by her, that’s quite a biased lens. I could see how some people were manipulating things and wondered if there were things we didn’t know about that were contributing to her behaviour. Another thing that happened because we only see her from Freya’s point of view is that it was hard at times to be sympathetic or mournful of her death. The choice to make her both murder victim and villainess, and the author’s ability to evoke in me such constrasting feelings towards her, were a testament to her talent. The characters who manipulated, lied and harassed people were expertly written (I’m not naming them to avoid spoilers). They were classic examples of abusers and narcissist – masquerading behind a veil of charm, charisma, kindness and kinship. Their victims were like lambs to the slaughter at the hands of their expert scheme.

The story is written in multiple timelines and moves somewhat sporadically between them. It felt choppy and confusing at times as a result and I sometimes had to double check what timeline we were in to make sense of things. But as more of the story was told this got better and things flowed more smoothly. There were times I liked the use of multiple timelines as they were used to weave clues through the story and tease the reader before jumping to another point in the story, leaving us in suspense.

The Pact manages to hit all the requirements for a riveting, explosive and involving thriller while also being an acutely observed commentary on some of the most harrowing, difficult and important issues we face. While I did guess some things early on I was left with my jaw on the floor when the author delivered the coup de grace.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy is a writer and book blogger based in South Africa. She has been shortlisted twice for the acclaimed Miles Morland African Writing Scholarship. Her short stories and poems have been published in multiple anthologies including Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review and the Short Sharp Stories anthologies. When she is not writing her own fiction, she ghost-writes books and columns for global tech and financial companies.

THE PACT 6.11

Who Did You Tell by Lesley Kara ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this new thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Bantam Press for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Every town has its secrets. Lesley Kara knows them all…

From the author of 2019’s biggest crime thriller debut, The Rumour, comes an addictive new novel…

It’s been 192 days, seven hours and fifteen minutes since her last drink. Now Astrid is trying to turn her life around.

Having reluctantly moved back in with her mother, in a quiet seaside town away from the temptations and painful memories of her life before, Astrid is focusing on her recovery. She’s going to meetings. Confessing her misdeeds. Making amends to those she wronged.

But someone knows exactly what Astrid is running from. And they won’t stop until she learns that some mistakes can’t be corrected. 

Some mistakes, you have to pay for…   

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MY REVIEW:

This brilliant thriller started slowly but then drew me in as the pace and tension increased and simmered with fear. It was well written and plotted and I loved the suspense that came from the paragraphs in italics as a mysterious person fantasises about murder and vengence. Is this voice Astrid’s before she got sober or is it someone else who has their sights on her? I wasn’t sure and changed my mind on this and the identity of this mystery narrator many times throughout the book. As the story progressed it was impossible to know which characters we could trust and like Astrid I was seeing enemies everywhere, even in those I’d never wondered about early on.

Dealing with a central theme of alcoholism and addiction, this is an emotional read in places. The author has clearly done her research and captured the daily battles that are faced by a recovering alcoholic and the devastating effects on their life, friends and family in a way that was honest, real and raw. I had never really thought about the extent of the turmoil, exhaustion, terror and they face every moment they’re awake until I read this book. The author wrote Astrid’s constant battle to stay sober so expertly that my own heart would race when she faced temptation and I shouted inside my head for her to stay strong. 

Astrid was an interesting protagonist. I could never quite decide if she was unreliable or really in jeopardy, which I liked because it added an extra layer of tension and mystery to the story. The small town setting helped to convey her feeling of being watched and monitored every time she leaves the house and I could feel her fear radiating from the pages as she tried to decipher who knew her secrets, if she’s really going crazy, and who she could trust.  Guilt and depression are themes that ran through the book and, for Astrid, go hand in hand. The author explored this in a way that showed her vulnerability and self-loathing as well as her dark side, and managed to make her less likeable yet more sympathetic.

Who Did You Tell is a captivating and twisty thriller full of dark secrets, suspicion and revenge. Every time I thought I had things figured out the author would throw in another twist and I’d have to rethink what I thought I knew. The further I got into the story, the more I was on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as we approached the end. Though I got some things right, when the full picture was revealed it still had my jaw on the floor in shock.

Out December 5th.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lesley Kara is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She grew up in Essex and now lives with her family on the North Essex coast. Lesley has been a teacher and worked as a bookseller. Her first novel, The Rumour, was a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller. The Rumour has been optioned for TV (Cuba Pictures) and has sold in 15 territories to date.

November Wrap Up

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Another month gone and we’re in the last month of the year. How did that happen?!

November has been a good reading month. I’ve read fourteen books, one sampler and took part in eight blog tours. Almost all the books I read this month were by new authors to me. Only three of the fifteen were by authors I’ve already read. I love discovering new authors and can honestly say that I would, and will, read books by them again. I love a good book series and this month three of the books I read – Snow Creek, The Vanished Bride and Hold Your Tongue – were the first in an exciting new series. I will definitely be reading the next installments and can’t wait to see where the authors take the characters next.

So here’s what I read this month. You can find the synopsis and reviews for most of the books on this blog. Some of them will be published shortly.

  • The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Snow Creek by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Her Dark Heart by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Wish List of Albie Young by Ruby Hummingbird ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver ⭐⭐⭐.5
  • Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Assistant by S. K. Tremayne  ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • High Heels and Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Violet by S. J. I. Holliday ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Lies We Hide by S. E. Lynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Who Did You Tell by Lesley Kara ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Saving Missy (Sampler) by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The stand out book this month was The Vanished Bride. Although I read a lot of great books, that is the one I’ve not been able to get out of my mind the most. As I said in my review, it is a luminous novel that was a joy to read.

So with December upon us I am putting together my favourite books of 2019 and looking forward to so many books that are coming in 2020. I have six blog tours I’m taking part in and  I can’t wait to share my reviews with you for those.

Have you read any of the books in my list for November? What was your favourite book this month. Comment below.

Thank you to the tagged publishers, authors and to NetGalley for my gifted copies of the novels.

Publication Day – In the Lion’s Den by Barbara Taylor Bradford

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SYNOPSIS:

In the Lion’s Den is a gripping new Victorian epic novel featuring the characters of the House of Falconer series from beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author, Barbara Taylor Bradford.

London, 1889: Victorian London is a place of wealth, privilege and poverty, a city of extremes. For James Falconer, who grew up as a barrow boy on a London market, it is a city of opportunity.

Working his way up Henry Malvern’s trading company in Piccadilly, James faces fraud and betrayal. A fierce rivalry develops with Henry’s daughter and heir Alexis – but their animosity masks a powerful attraction.

Embarking on a love affair with the daughter of Russian émigrés, James’s life begins to transform. But as treachery and danger threaten, a secret comes to light that will change his life forever. James must decide where his future lies – with Henry Malverm or following his own dream…

MY THOUGHTS:

We’ve all heard of the legendary Barbara Taylor Bradford but would it occur to you to pick up one of her books? As soon as I read the synopsis for her latest book, In the Lion’s Den, I knew it was a book I’d enjoy. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and this sounded like exactly the kind of book that was perfect to curl up with on a cosy winter’s night. But I admit that if I hadn’t received the email from Get Red PR about working together that I might have skipped past it. Instead I’m excited to immerse myself in a new series by a much-loved author.

Thank you to HarperCollinsUK and Get Red PR for my gifted copy of this novel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barbara Taylor Bradford was born and raised in England. She started her writing career on the Yorkshire Evening Post and later worked as a journalist in London. Her first novel, A Woman of Substance, became an enduring bestseller and was followed by many more, including the bestselling Harte series. Barbara’s books have sold over eighty-five million copies worldwide in more than ninety countries and forty languages, and ten mini-series and television movies have been made of her books. In October of 2007, Barbara was appointed an OBE by the Queen for her services to literature. In the Lion’s Den is her thirty-fourth novel.

Visit barbarataylorbradford.co.uk 

Violet by S.J.I. Holliday ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this twisty psychological thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to S.J.I. Holliday and Orenda books for the gifted ebook copy of this novel.

SYNOPSIS:

When two strangers end up sharing a cabin on the Trans-Siberian Express, and intense friendship develops, one that can only have one ending…a nerve-shattering psychological thriller from bestselling author SJI Holliday.

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world-trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place. 

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

A tense and twisted psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships, Violet also reminds us that there’s a reason why mother told us not to talk to strangers…

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MY REVIEW:

This claustrophobic and disturbing psychological thriller takes the reader on a wild ride as we follow travellers, and new friends, Violet and Carrie on their cross-country journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. Nothing and no-one is what they seem in this mysterious, foreboding and tense thriller that had me guessing throughout. 

The story is narrated by Violet with Carrie’s voice appearing in the form of emails to her friends and family back home. I thought this was a great way to show us Carrie’s perspective and give us an alternative look at events. Both girls were curious characters but not very likeable, and neither were any of the background characters we met along the way. From the start I didn’t trust Violet, and it was soon apparent that there was something very wrong with her. Something that ran deep. Carrie couldn’t have been more different. She is chatty and makes friends easily.  The pair develop a strong and intense bond but Violet goes further, developing an unhealthy obsession with her new friend and will do anything to keep her close. 

This was my first read by this author and I now can’t wait to read more. She transported me to places I’ve never been with her evocative and descriptive prose. I also loved how she teased us, alluding to fragments of the girls’ past and how we are left to guess what Violet means by the sinister sentences she will randomly throw out. It’s soon clear she has some dark secrets and is hiding behind a smokescreen of lies but the author leaves us as clueless as Carrie, heightening the suspense. 

Violet is an exciting story about obsession, jealousy, rage, secrets and devious desires. It is also a cautionary tale about trusting strangers and intense, toxic friendships. I devoured the pages as we approached the crescendo – the shocking revelations coming thick and fast, a million questions in my head –  before finally reaching the deft and satisfying conclusion. 

I would highly recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy Killing Eve or Single White Female. 

Out now. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and bestselling author of five crime novels,  including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story Home From Home was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize. Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago. All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

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The Assistant by S. K. Tremayne ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

She’s in your house. She controls your life. Now she’s going to destroy it.

A terrifying and timely new psychological thriller, from the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Ice Twins.

She watches you constantly.

Newly divorced Jo is delighted to move into her best friend’s spare room almost rent-free. The high-tech luxury Camden flat is managed by a meticulous Home Assistant called Electra, that takes care of the heating, lights – and sometimes Jo even turns to her for company.

She knows all your secrets.

Until, late one night, Electra says one sentence that rips Jo’s fragile world in two. ‘I know what you did.’ And Jo is horrified. Because in her past she did do something terrible. Something unforgivable.

Now she wants to destroy you.

Only two other people in the whole world know Jo’s secret. And they would never tell anyone. Would they? As a fierce winter brings London to a standstill, Jo begins to understand that the Assistant on the shelf doesn’t just want to control Jo, it wants to destroy her.

MY REVIEW:

This story has seeped into my psyche and given me the most bizarre dreams of technology terrorising my life since reading. I don’t have an Alexa, any smart meters or Home Assistants. And after this book, I have never been more thankful of that! Intriguing, suspenseful, creepy and unpredictable, The Assistant exposes and explores a very modern fear alongside ones that have been around for years. 

Jo is a freelance journalist, recently divorced and living in her best friend Tabitha’s spare room. The Camden flat is the height of luxury and high-tech, filled with the latest Home Assistants who control everything from the temperature and lights, to answering your questions. Jo is alone most of the time so she’s started talking to one of the assistants, Electra, for company. But one night the assistants suddenly don’t seem so friendly, uttering the terrifying words – “I know what you did…I know your secret.” Jo is horrified because she does have a secret. One that only two others know. A secret that has haunted her for fifteen years. As the assistants begin to terrorise Jo, it soon clear they want more than control. They want to destroy her. As her life slowly unravels, Jo desperately tries to get to the truth before it’s too late for herself and those she cares about.

Eerie, menacing and sinister, The Assistant is a timely story about our love affair and reliance on technology mixed in with a story about mental health problems and good old fashioned vengeance. It is a claustrophobic story and you have a real sense that someone or something is  always watching and listening. 

Jo was an unreliable protagonist as early on we learn her father had late-onset schizophrenia and his symptoms were remarkably similar to what she is experiencing. Everything is questionable: is she hallucinating the assistants saying these things or is this really happening? I liked this as we never know what to think which makes the story harder to predict and you’re full of questions right up until the end. I would go back and forth in my own thoughts on Jo’s sanity and what was really happening throughout the book. 

The idea that someone could weaponise the assistants against us filled me with a lingering sense of horror. We’re all dependent on technology to some degree. If I leave the house without my phone I panic and feel like my arm has been cut off. We don’t think twice about using these devices to make life easier and connect with people. It is also seen as something that doesn’t make mistakes and it certainly doesn’t think for itself, which is why no one believes Jo when she says it’s out to get her, is speaking to her and doing things using her email accounts of its own accord. That’s just crazy. And it seems just as crazy that someone could be using the assistants to get some kind of revenge. After all, Jo is in charge of the apps. 

This was my first book by this author but won’t be my last. I loved the language and vivid imagery in his writing and though I felt like it started a little slow, the tension soon ramped up to a nail-biting suspense. I was desperate for answers and couldn’t put the book down, racing towards the finale where the jaw-dropping twist and revelations left me blindsided. 

I would recommend this unsettling and unpredictable novel for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers. Just make sure you unplug your Alexa before you start…

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollinsUK for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Published November 29th.

Published November 29th.